A Sudanese-Australian, a Morrocan, a Syrian and two Thais have been aquitted of human trafficking, procurement and prostitution. They were earlier sentenced to 16-19 years in jail for allegedly forcing four Moroccan women into prostitution.
The ruling was read out at the Criminal Court in Bangkok on Wednesday.
The Appeal Court overturned the Criminal Court’s judgement of July 18 last year against the five defendants; — Sudanese-Australian Michael Pearl 47; Syrian Ghassan Wakej, 38; Chalad Narachan, 64; Aree Eiamsaree, 47; and Ms Hana Taoyuree, 39, a Moroccan national.
The prosecution alleged that Mr Pearl and the other defendants had lured four Morrocan women into prostitution. They had offered the women well-paid jobs as waitresses in Thailand, but the victims had allegedly been forced into prostitution. All five defendants denied the charges of human trafficking and procurement for prostitution.
Last year, the Criminal Court handed down a 19-year jail term to Mr Pearl, for human trafficking, procurement and prostitution. The Sudanese-Australian defendant had been running Dream Disco on the fourth floor of the Zenith Hotel on Soi Nana. The alleged forced prostitution occurred from Oct 11, 2016 to March 26, 2017.
Pearl was accused of being the gang leader
The four other defendants were also given 16 years in jail each for human trafficking and procurement.
The five defendants were taken from Bangkok Remand Prison to hear the ruling on their appeal on Wednesday.
The Appeal Court doubted the testimony given by the first victim, that her passport had been seized. After examining evidence, the court did not find her passport had been seized as claimed. She and the other victims could enter and leave their workplace as normal.
They could also encourage tourists to visit nearby shops. The court found the first victim could also go to work at another nightclub in Phuket, similar to that operated by the first defendant.
Besides, none of the victims had sought protection from human trafficking from officials. This showed that they could lead a normal life. The court found that the evidence was questionable and gave the defendants the benefit of the doubt. All were acquitted of the charges.
A representative from the Moroccan embassy also attended the court as an observer on Wednesday.
Source: Bangkok Post