Several prominent red shirt leaders have been given prison terms for leading a demonstration against the President of Thailand’s Privy Council.
On 9 January 2016, the Criminal Court read the Appeal Court’s verdict on ten red shirt activists accused of unlawful assembly for leading a demonstration against General Prem Tinsulanonda, the President of the Privy Council.
The defendants were accused of leading a crowd of several thousand to Prem’s residence on 22 July 2007 to demand his resignation. The group included several prominent red shirt leaders. The protesters alleged that Prem had sponsored the 2006 coup.
Among the ten defendants are Nattawut Saikua, a leader of the anti-establishment United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), Veerakarn Musikapong, a former UDD leader, and Weng Tojirakarn, a former MP for the Pheu Thai party.
The harshest punishment of 3 years was handed to Nopparut Worachitwutthikul as the leader of the unlawful assembly.
However, the Appeals Court classified four of the group as only accomplices to the crime, reducing their jail terms to 1 year for obstructing the work of public officials.
Nattawut has already publically announced the intention of the defendants and their lawyers to prepare evidence to take the case to the Supreme Court. Emphasising that he respects the court’s verdict, Nattawut nevertheless stated that it is their right to appeal until they have exhausted the judicial process. He maintains the fight is not over.
The Appeal Court’s verdict was a revision of the decision by the Court of First Instance that found all the defendants guilty of unlawful assembly on two counts. The Appeals Court concluded from the evidence that the defendants were guilty of only one offence, reasoning they had but the single intention of creating chaos.
The Court of First Instance had sentenced four of the defendants to jail terms of 4 years and 4 months each and one to 2 years and 8 months, while two others were acquitted. The status of the remaining three defendants remains pending.
The Appeals Court revised the sentences after comparing witness statements from policemen, reporters and two photographers and recordings of the event.
Following the verdict, the defendant’s legal team announced on Facebook that they are working on temporary bail for the five convicted. The Appeals Court set bail at 500,000 baht in cash per defendant while the Supreme Court considers the final bail. The defendants are forbidden to leave the country.