The Pathum Wan District Court Thursday acquitted Sgt-Major 1st class Apichart Pongsaawt for allegedly violating the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s order banning all political gatherings.
The prosecutor’s suit pointed out that the NCPO had imposed the ban after General Prayut Chan-o-cha brought down the Yingluck Shinawatra government on May 22, 2014.
Apichart and 500 others had gathered at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre and held up placards reading “not yielding to illegal power”, and the lawsuit accused Apichart of instigating others to cause turmoil.
The defendant denied the charges, saying he had left work on May 23, 2014 at 4.30pm and was heading toward the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre when he received a Facebook message to join the gathering there.
He said that while waiting on the skywalk linking the BTS station with the cultural centre, he lifted a placard with a message against the coup, and about half an hour later five soldiers came to the BTS station and escorted him away without telling him of any charges that might be pressed against him.
He said he was exercising his right to express disapproval against the coup, and did not have any intention to create turmoil.
The court acquitted Apichart on grounds that the Crime Suppression Commission did not have the authority to investigate a criminal case in Pathum Wan district, and hence the prosecutors were not authorised to file a lawsuit against Apichart.