Red Shirt leader Jatuporn gets six-month jail term in defamation case

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BANGKOK, July 10 — Thailand’s Criminal Court on Tuesday sentenced former Pheu Thai Party MP and key Red Shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan to six months jail in regard to the defamation case over his comment accusing then prime minister Abhisit Vajjajiva of impropriety in an audience with His Majesty the King.

In handing down the verdict, the court said that Mr Jatuporn did not make his comments in good faith. In addition, both the plaintiff and the defendant had pending lawsuits against each other in multiple cases. Therefore, the defendant is found to have intentionally slandered the plaintiff to tarnish his reputation.

The court then sentenced Mr Jatuporn to six months in jail and ordered him to pay a fine of Bt50,000. However, the sentence was suspended for two years given that the defendant has never been found guilty in such a case.

The court also ordered Mr Jatuporn to publish his apologies in Matichon and Manager newspapers for seven days.

The Red Shirt leader was present in court to hear the verdict . He said he will appeal the sentence.

In the case, Mr Jatuporn, a key leader of the anti-government United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) — the red shirt movement — is accused of defaming Mr Abhisit, then prime minister, had considered himself as equal to His Majesty the King.

Mr Jatuporn at a news conference at Puea Thai Party headquarters on Jan 13, 2009 claiming said that Mr Abhisit inappropriately placed himself in a position of equality with His Majesty the King — by sitting in a chair at the same level while presenting a report to the monarch about government issues on Jan 12, the previous day

Mr Abhisit however explained that the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary and the Bureau of the Royal Household had arranged the chairs when he was granted an audience by the King.

He added that in the past, former prime ministers Chuan Leekpai and Samak Sundaravej as well as Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, also sat on chair similarly when granted audiences with the King.