Court rejects FFP plea for public trial

Court rejects FFP plea for public trial

Extends deadline for witness testimonies

The Constitutional Court has dismissed the Future Forward Party (FFP)'s request for the loan case to be deliberated upon in public, but agreed to extend the deadline for submitting witness testimonies until Monday.

The court also rejected the party's petition for an open session to hear witnesses. The case stems from the Election Commission's accusation that the FFP violated the organic law on political parties by accepting a 191.2-million-baht loan from its leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit to finance last year's election campaign.

The EC cited Section 72, which prohibits parties and their executives from accepting cash donations, assets or other benefits when they know or suspect the money comes from an illegitimate source. The EC considers the loan illegitimate, citing Sections 62 and 66 of the law.

Section 62 allows parties to conduct fundraisers or receive donations, but it does not include loans as a legitimate financial source. Section 66 of the law bars any individual from donating money or assets to parties in excess of 10 million baht within a one-year period.

The FFP has been insisting that the court has allowed it too little time to call its defence witnesses to take the stand. The party named 17 people as witnesses, but claimed it could only call four to testify.

They are Mr Thanathorn, party secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, the party's treasurer, and its legal specialist. The remaining 13 are non-party members who require a court order to be summonsed to testify in the party's defence.

They include members of an EC sub-panel which determined there was nothing wrong with the party's loan.

The court earlier gave the party until Wednesday to present its witnesses, and then extended the deadline to Monday. The ruling for the case is set for Feb 21.

Yesterday, Mr Thanathorn said that since the case involved accounting practices that follow exacting standards, he expected the court's deliberation would not involve a broad-ranging interpretation of the law.

"Accountancy is straightforward. It leaves no room for leeway," he said.

Mr Thanathorn said those who knew how the FFP operates would realise he could not be accused of using the loan to dominate the party. He added he was under the impression the court had not studied how the FFP works.

The FFP leader said he would take the election commissioners to court for allegedly abusing their authority in forwarding the loan case to the court without laying charges against him first.

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