Shinawatra hires war crimes lawyer

May 31, 2010 12:00 am

, BANGKOK, May 31 – Fugitive former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra\’s legal team said Monday it had hired an international war crimes expert to help investigate a recent army crackdown on protesters in Bangkok.

Dutch professor GJ Alexander Knoops, previously involved in cases on the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone, will help attempt to bring the Thai government to court for alleged human rights violations, a statement said.

The statement by Thaksin\’s legal team accused the Thai government of "flagrantly breaching its obligations as a member of the international community and the United Nations Human Rights Council".

The "Red Shirt" protests, which were broken up May 19 by the army, paralysed central Bangkok and descended into several outbreaks of violence that left 88 people dead since mid-March, mostly civilians, and nearly 1,900 injured.

The statement by Thaksin\’s lawyers said at least 140 Reds had been arrested, and that most were being held illegally without charge or access to a lawyer.

The government has accused Thaksin of "masterminding" the bloodshed surrounding the anti-government rallies. A Thai court last week approved a warrant for his arrest on terrorism charges in connection with the protests.

The multimillionaire tycoon, who was ousted in a bloodless military coup in 2006 and lives in self-imposed exile to avoid a jail term for corruption, says the charges against him are "politically motivated."

If found guilty, Thaksin could in theory face the death penalty, but the warrant appears aimed at boosting attempts to extradite the ousted premier, who has found sanctuary in several countries.


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