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Thai court to try graft case in absence of Thaksin


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August 16, 2008

Thai court to try graft case in absence of Thaksin
Thailand’s Supreme Court on Friday ruled that corruption case against former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife, who skipped bail and fled to Britain, could proceed in absence of the couple, said the Thai News Agency (TNA).

The ruling of the country’s Supreme Court’s criminal division for holders of political positions came after the couple’s lawyers asked for a suspension of the hearings on a graft case against the ex-premier and his wife Pojaman for allegedly illegal purchase of land in Bangkok’s business area while Thaksin was prime minister, as both of them are now living in Britain.

TNA said Thai judges ruled that the trial can “proceed in absentia” because the defendants had surrendered to authorities and the court had granted them bail. The judges said there was no reason to dismiss the case.

The court also turned down a request by a team of lawyers who told the court that the defendants wanted them to stop representing them as their lawyers. The court said it was empowered to acquire additional evidence from witnesses even though the couple had no lawyers representing them.

In consequence, the court rejected requests by Thaksin’s lawyers for them to withdraw as the couple’s legal representation.

The next hearing on the Ratchadapisek land purchase scandal is scheduled for next Tuesday.

Thailand’s Supreme Court on Monday issued arrest warrants for Thaksin and Pojaman, who have flown from Beijing after attending the opening ceremony of the Olympics Games to London. They failed to appear for a mandatory court hearing on Monday.

The police on Thursday started distributing the warrants for the couple.

The warrant for Thaksin has the statue of limitations for 15 years and the one for Pojaman is enforced for 10 years.

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