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Thaksin unlikely to return for court hearing: lawyer
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14:04, July 12, 2007

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Thailand's ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife Pojaman are unlikely to return to Thailand to attend a court hearing on a suspicious land purchase case on Aug. 14, according to the family's lawyer.

Noppadol Pattama, legal advisor to Thaksin's family who has been acting as the deposed premier's spokesman in Thailand while he remained in a self-imposed exile overseas, insisted Thursday that his clients were innocent, and he doubted if they would get a fair trial if they were to return, newspaper Bangkok Post reported in its website.

The remarks followed a decision by the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Office in Thailand on Tuesday to open the trial against Thaksin and his wife Pojaman for alleged corruption in a land procurement deal on Ratchadapisek Road in Bangkok after the charges were filed last month.

Thaksin and Pojaman have been accused of using their position to influence the Financial Institutions Development Fund under the central bank in 2003 to sell them the plot at a price much lower than the market price. The original estimated price for the land was 2.1 billion baht (63.6 million U.S. dollars), while Pojaman paid only 772 million baht (23.4 million dollars) through an auction.

The tribunal scheduled the first hearing on Aug. 14 for the couple to enter their plea.

Thaksin has been living overseas, mainly in London, after being ousted in a bloodless military coup last September. He has denied all charges against him.

Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, chairman of the Council for National Security (CNS) who led the coup to oust Thaksin, said Wednesday that Thaksin's safety would be guaranteed if he returns home to fight the corruption charges.

If convicted, Thaksin and his wife, as first and second defendant in the case, face imprisonment of up to three years and a fine of up to 60,000 baht (1,818 dollars), plus a maximum of 10 years in jail and a maximum 20,000 baht (6,061 dollars) fine for malfeasance.

Source: Xinhua

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