Libel, Computer Crime Trial of BBC Reporter Begins

British BBC correspondent Jonathan Head on Wednesday enters the provincial court at the start of his trial. Photo: Associated Press

BANGKOK — The trial has begun in Thailand of a British BBC correspondent charged with criminal defamation and computer crime over a report on alleged fraud.

Jonathan Head, BBC’s Southeast Asia correspondent, was charged in February over a report alleging that a British expatriate’s Thai wife defrauded him of property on the southern resort island of Phuket.

The expatriate, Ian Rance, and Head are being sued by a lawyer who says he was defamed over an assertion that his signature appeared on a document validating Rance’s forged signature.

The case has been criticized as an example of how Thai laws can be used to intimidate journalists. If found guilty, Head could face up to two years in prison for online criminal defamation and five years under a law regulating online content.

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