Fifth postponement for lawyer Sirikan’s car case, ongoing judicial harassment

Fifth postponement for lawyer Sirikan’s car case, ongoing judicial harassment

17 January 2017, Bangkok—Ms Sirikan Charoensiri, aka June, a human rights lawyer and specialist at Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), reported to the Dusit District Prosecutor’s Office in Bangkok to hear the prosecution order of her offences on refusing to comply with an order of competent officers and concealing evidence, charged under Sections 142 and 368 of the Thai Criminal Code. The prosecutor stated that they had submitted Sirikan’s letter of petition to the Director of Department of Summary Litigation. Sirikan waits to hear the prosecution order, and is scheduled to report again at 9.30 am on 2 May 2017 at the Dusit District Prosecutor’s Office in Bangkok.

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On 12 May 2016, Sirikan had submitted a letter of petition to the Dusit District Prosecutor’s Office when she reported to hear the prosecution order the first time. The letter states the circumstantial evidence and legal opinions on the allegations, that on the night of 26 – 27 June 2015, the police attempted to conduct a warrantless search of her car without the authority. A list of five witnesses were submitted but only two were later scheduled to give statements. (Read more) If the public prosecutor orders to indict Sirikan, this case will be heard in the Criminal Court.

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This is the fifth postponement of Sirikan’s hearing of prosecution order in this case after the first hearing on 12 May 2016. It was postponed to 27 July, 29 September, 3 November 2016 and 2 May 2017. Note that it has been almost a year after the police informed Sirikan of the charges on 9 February 2016. (Read more)

Sedition: Sirikan is also charged of sedition offence (Section 116 of the Thai Criminal Code) and violation of the Order of the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) no. 3/2015 (prohibiting political gatherings of five or more persons), for her legal representation of the 14 then-jailed anti-coup activists of the New Democracy Movement (NDM) on 25 – 27 June 2015. (Read more)

International community presence and support for lawyer Sirikan when reporting to the police in her sedition and political gathering case
International community presence and support for lawyer Sirikan when reporting to the police in her sedition and political gathering case

On 22 October 2016, at the Samranrat Police Station, Sirikan had been informed of her charges and denied all allegations. The accuser Lt Col Pongsarit Pawangkhanan claimed that, after the 14 NDM activists were taken to the Bangkok Military Court on 26 June 2015, he saw Sirikan carrying a bag and an envelope rushing to her car and, later around midnight, refused to let the officers search her car, where later found 5 cellphones of NDM activists’. Further, the military investigation team later investigated photos of Sirikan and found that she had allegedly been involved with NDM activities all along. Subsequently, Lt Col Pongsarit concluded that Sirikan’s alleged acts provide reasonable grounds to believe her association with NDM.

Sirikan later submitted a statement and a list of additional witnesses and evidence in November, and had two witnesses give testimonies in December 2016. This case is pending the police investigation. Since the alleged acts occurred before the Head of the NCPO Order no. 55/2016—ceasing the practice of trying civilian cases in military courts for crimes committed after 12 September 2016—came in effect, she will be tried in a military court if indicted.

False Report: Sirikan received a summons for allegedly submitting a false report to the police, following her filing a complaint of malfeasance in office against Pol Lt Gen Chayapol Chatchayadetch and others for illegally impounding her car on 27 June 2015, after the NDM anti-coup protest. The police could not point out which parts of the report were false, Sirikan could not be informed of her charges.

Sirikan is facing a total number of 15 years’ imprisonment in all three legal proceedings. The international community has expressed concerns on Sirikan’s cases, and released news reports and statements requesting a dismissal of all her charges.

Sirikan is one of the legal representatives for the 14 student activists from the New Democracy Movement (NDM). On the night of 26-27 June 2015, following the after-hour opening of the Bangkok Military Court to investigate the NDM activists who were arrested after staging peaceful protests against the ruling military junta and charged with sedition and violating the ban on political gathering of five or more persons, which resulted in students being brought into custody. The police requested to search Sirikan’s car, which was parked in front of the court building, to confiscate the students’ cellphones. Given that the officials did not have a court warrant and there was no justifiable evidence to conduct a search at night (around midnight of 26 June to 1 am of 27 June 2015), Sirikan refused to consent to the warrantless search. As a result, the police impounded her car, which contained the lawyers’ case files and personal computers, and mobile phones belonging to the students. This caused Sirikan to guard her car in front of the Court all night.

Later in the afternoon of 27 June 2015, Sirikan went to a police station to file a complaint of malfeasance regarding the seizure of her car. The police refused to accept the complaint while another police team came with a court warrant to search her car and five phones belonging to the students were seized as evidence. Sirikan attempted to file a complaint of malfeasance in office, under Section 157 of the Criminal Code, against Pol Lt Gen Chayapol Chatchayadetch and other officials for illegally impounding her car. A senior investigator told her that the police had power to search her car and suggested that if she filed a complaint, it would not finish there and that the police would consider countering with some form of legal action against her. The police finally accepted the complaint at 11:00pm.

In February 2016, Sirikan was accused of refusing to comply with an order without reasonable cause or excuse after being informed of an order by officials holding power invested by the law, and offence of concealing or making away of property or document ordered by the officers to be sent as evidence or for execution of the law, under Sections 368 and 142 of the Criminal Code, respectively. She also received a summons for the offence of reporting false information concerning a criminal offence to an inquiry official, under Sections 172 and 174 of the Criminal Code.