Thai Red Shirt leaders cleared of terror charge

Court: 2010 protest that claimed 91 lives was ‘political fight’

Bangkok, August 14 

A court in Thailand on Wednesday dismissed terrorism and other charges against 24 leaders of an extended street protest in 2010 that saw key areas of central Bangkok closed off and random violence that was ended by military force.

The Bangkok Criminal Court ruled that the two-month protest by the “Red Shirt" supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, during which 91 persons were killed and thousands hurt, was “a political fight, not terrorism”. Thaksin was ousted by a military coup in 2006 after being accused of corruption and abuse of power. His allies won a 2007 election, but parliamentary maneuvering installed the rival Democrat Party in power in 2008, inspiring the 2010 protest that called for Democrat PM Abhisit Vejjajiva to step down.

Thaksin's ouster set off years of sometimes violent conflict between his supporters and opponents, both of which engaged in aggressive street protests against governments led by the other's faction. During three months of street protests in 2008, Thaksin’s foes — known as Yellow Shirts — occupied the PM's offices, as well as Bangkok  airport for about a week.

The case decided on Wednesday was brought by state prosecutors and more than 40 business owners affected by the Red Shirts' seizure of Bangkok's central shopping and business district, and involved charges of terrorism, criminal association, inciting unrest and possession of arms. The defendants were acquitted of all charges. — AP

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