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Thailand: Free speech on trial – day five

Day Five – Police scientist testifies for prosecution
((Please also read day one, day two, day three and day four trial.)

The fifth day of trial continued on Friday for independent news portal Prachatai’s webmaster, Chiranuch Premchaiporn independent news portal Prachatai’s webmaster in Bangkok’s Criminal Court.

Chiranuch is charged with ten violations of Thailand’s draconian Computer Crimes Act for alleged lèse majesté. Each count carries a potential sentence of five years imprisonment.

Lieutenant Dr. Wiwat Sittisoradej is a police scientist and has a doctoral degree in physical sciences from Chulalongkorn University appearing for the prosecution.

He copied Chiranuch’s laptop hard disk seized by the police on March 6, 2009 for forensic analysis. Using software developed for the US FBI, he discovered eight modified photos of King Bhumibol to provide the monarch a monkey face which had been deleted from the trash.

These photos must have come from a YouTube video insulting the king. In any case, Chiranuch is not charged with these photos but they were used to set the stage for her accusers.

The police scientist also found eight postings to Prachatai in two folders named ‘Prachatai Webboard’. Although the laptop disk arrived with an evidence sticker, it was unsigned, making verification and continuity of evidence impossible.

Furthermore, the transfer disk provided Wiwat was unsealed, suggesting it was not a new disk and raising the possibility it may have been used in other investigations leaving potentially incriminating artifacts.

The lieutenant worked alone without supervision from other police. Normally, police evidence is printed to use as evidence in court. However, Dr. Wiwat felt such copying would put him in violation of lèse majesté laws himself. He also declined to repeat this information in his report.

He found no evidence that either the deleted images or the eight postings had been created or posted from Chiranuch’s computer.

The most interesting part of the police scientist’s testimony was regarding the way email works. Thunderbird, an offline email client similiar to Microsoft’s Outlook application was found on Jiew’s laptop. As offline clients are set to default save incoming emails and their attachments to disk.

Dr. Wiwat readily conceded the probability that the images and postings were received by Chiranuch in email and were not redistributed by her.

The police witness was shown a report from a lèse majesté seminar held at Thammasat University in 2008. Dr. Wiwat also conceded that statements calling for amendment or repeal of Thailand’s lèse majesté laws used in postings may have come from this document.

Although the police scientist found some of the postings to contain language he considered impolite, he found no direct mentions of the monarchy. Lt. Wiwat said that a computer user could not be in violation for simply receiving these emails.

The witness also found no links to Prachatai by IP address meaning Jiew’s laptop was not the server for Prachatai’s webboard.

Pol. Lt. Dr. Wiwat was the fifth government witness, leaving nine more for the prosecution. As it became obvious trial would not be completed by the end of next week, a decision was made to adjourn for a later date.

Chiranuch’s trial will resume Thursday, September 1st and continue on Sept 2nd, 6th through 9th, 20th and 21st to hear nine remaining prosecution witnesses. The defence will begin on Tuesday, October 11th through 14th to hear eight witnesses.

An after-party was held at the Prachatai offices for friends and supporters, legal and media observers, thus this late posting. Our toast was:

FREE JIEW!

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