Thai death sentence strains EU ties

Thailand’s Appeals Court yesterday (Friday) upheld a death sentence for a Spanish man, Artur Segarra Princep, who was convicted of killing a fellow Spaniard, mutilating his body and throwing it in pieces into Bangkok’s Chao Phraya in January 2016.
Thailand recently controversially reintroduced the death penalty as it holds talks with the European Union about re-establishing diplomatic ties. Imposing the death sentence on a European citizen will not alleviate this process.
Princep, who has maintained his innocence, will now appeal to Thailand’s Supreme Court.
The Appeals Court judge said security camera video and the testimonies of witnesses, including from a maid at his apartment block and his Thai girlfriend, provided damning evidence. There were also the forensic results on DNA samples collected from Princep’s freezer that convinced the judge that the 38-year-old killed Spanish national David Bernat, 41.
The case has reportedly attracted considerable media attention in Spain and might boost tensions with the European Union if a date is set for an execution.
Segarra, who has been held in custody for 2½ years, was convicted of Bernat’s murder, illegal detention, torture, concealment of the body and theft. He was given the death sentence in April 2017.
He was also ordered to repay Bt735,000 (US$22,000) to Bernat’s family, which Segarra allegedly took out of the victim’s bank account.
The court heard Bernat had just arrived in Bangkok for a holiday when he met Segarra for drinks. They went to Segarra’s apartment at which point he was abducted and detained by his friend.
He was reportedly tortured for days for his bank codes and then killed. The dismemberment corpse was kept in the freezer and disposed of in the river.
Bernat’s body parts were discovered in the Chao Phraya in January 2016 and Segarra was arrested in Cambodia days later.

Wider context

The case will not ease tension between the European Union and the Bangkok’s military-controlled government.
Last month, Human Rights Watch called on Thailand to halt further executions and restore its de-facto moratorium on the use of the death penalty. Thailand executed 26-year-old Theerasak Longji by lethal injection on June 18, in the country’s first execution since August 2009.
“Thailand’s resumed use of the death penalty marks a major setback for human rights,” said the rights group’s Asia director Brad Adams. “The Thai government’s many pledges about moving toward abolishing the death penalty clearly meant nothing.”
Relations were cut by the EU after the May 2014 coup that toppled the democratically elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra. A delegation of MEPs is visiting the military-controlled kingdom on Monday and Tuesday to discuss the prospects of restoring ties.
Reforms to the fishing industry and the holding of a general election by February 2019 are seen as essential to restoring European relations.


Artur Segarra Princep. Picture credit: YouTube