Opposition leaders in Thailand pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of terrorism in connection with Thailand's recent political violence [JURIST news archive], as the government partially lifted the state of emergency that has been in place since May. The men held leadership positions in the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship [party website, in Thai] opposition group known as red shirts [BBC backgrounder] that conducted anti-government protests spanning from March 12 to May 19. They are accused of inciting violence, threatening government officials, including the prime minister, and committing terrorism during the protests. Coinciding with the plea, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva lifted the state of emergency [AP report] in three of the nation's northern provinces, but kept the decree in place in Bangkok and six other regions, citing security reasons. The next hearing for the opposition leaders is set for September 27, and, if convicted, the men face the possibility of execution.
In June, the Thai government indicated it will study the possibility of extending amnesty to red shirt protesters [JURIST report] convicted of minor offenses in order to facilitate reconciliation within the country. The offer of amnesty would not be given to the protesters charged with terrorism but could be extended to the 27 red shirt protesters who were sentenced to six months in prison [JURIST report] for violating the emergency decree prohibiting political gatherings of more than five people. The protests came to an end [JURIST report] last month when red shirt leaders surrendered to police, which led to rioting, arson and the imposition of a curfew to protect citizens of Bangkok and its surrounding areas. The red shirts are supporters of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who was removed from power in 2006 [JURIST report]. Last week, Thaksin lost an appeal [JURIST reports] to the Supreme Court of Thailand [GlobaLex backgrounder] challenging the seizure of his assets [JURIST report] by the government after the Constitutional Court had found him guilty of using his power in office to personally benefit himself and other family members.