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Defamation Case Dropped Against BBC Reporter in Thailand 

  • Associated Press

British BBC correspondent Jonathan Head enters the provincial court at the start of his trial, Aug. 23, 2017, on the southern island of Phuket, Thailand.

A Thai lawyer has withdrawn a criminal defamation case against a British BBC journalist involving a report on foreigners being defrauded of property, the BBC says.

The case against Jonathan Head, BBC's Southeast Asia correspondent, had begun Wednesday and has been criticized as an example of how Thailand's harsh criminal defamation laws can be used to intimidate journalists.

The BBC said in a statement Wednesday that the plaintiff had withdrawn the case against Head, who said via Twitter Thursday that the charges against his co-defendant were also withdrawn.

“Charges against my co-defendant Ian Rance now also withdrawn,” Head said in the post. “Relief for me but Ian's fight 4 justice & restoration of stolen assets goes on.”

Head had reported about Rance, a British expatriate whose Thai wife allegedly defrauded him of properties on the southern resort island of Phuket by forging his signature on multiple occasions.

The criminal complaint against Head and Rance was brought by lawyer Pratuan Thanarak, who said he was defamed by an allegation in the report that he had notarized Rance's forged signature, allowing the wife to transfer properties.

If found guilty, Head could have faced up to two years in prison for online criminal defamation and five years under a law regulating online content. Rance was charged with criminal defamation, which carries a one-year maximum sentence.

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