UDD bosses plead not guilty to 2009 unrest charges

UDD bosses plead not guilty to 2009 unrest charges

Nattawut: Also on terror rap
Nattawut: Also on terror rap

Ten leading United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) figures have pleaded not guilty in a criminal case brought against them for alleged offences committed during the 2009 political turmoil.

Among them were Veerakarn Musikapong, 70, the former UDD chairman; Jatuporn Prompan, 53, the group's present chairman, Nattawut Saikuar, 43, a key figure; and Weng Tojirakarn, 67, another important UDD member.

The Criminal Court set May 28 for the examination of evidence and witness lists submitted by both the accused and prosecutors. Witness testimonies are to begin in August.

All the defendants face charges related to illegal assembly and stirring up unrest from Jan 31 until April 4 of that year by organising rallies at several important government offices, the court said.

They are also accused of being involved in two more serious incidents -- the torching of a public bus and the hijacking of a petrol tanker that was later found abandoned during a violent street protest.

The fuse for the unrest was lit when the Constitution Court ruled to dissolve the Thai Rak Thai Party in 2007 for allowing former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, widely perceived as the party's de facto leader, to control its internal affairs.

The Abhisit Vejjajiva administration later took office on the back of this ruling in 2008 prompting the street protests led by the UDD in 2009. The UDD looked to oust Mr Abhisit and pressure three members of the Privy Council into resigning.

All 10 accused were arraigned on Monday before nine of them were released on 200,000 bail Tuesday.

Jatuporn is still serving a prison term after having been found guilty of defaming former prime minister Abhisit and sentenced to one year in jail in a separate case.

He is currently detained at Bangkok Remand Prison.

Mr Veerakarn, Jatuporn, Mr Nattawut and Mr Weng are also embroiled in another criminal case in which they were earlier arraigned on terrorism and five other similar charges stemming from the political unrest.

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