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Court orders release of rally leader Sonthiyarn

Says seven days' detention of senior rally figure enough to complete police investigations

The Criminal Court yesterday rejected a police request to extend the detention of Sonthiyarn Chuenruethainaitham, a rally leader arrested under the state of emergency.

The court ordered police to temporarily release Sonthiyarn on January 17.

Sonthiyarn, who was arrested on Monday, is one of 19 People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) leaders for whom arrest warrants were obtained for violating the emergency decree during their Bangkok shutdown campaigns.

Police had requested the court's permission to detain Sonthiyarn for a further seven days because their investigation is not yet complete.

The court dismissed the police request, saying seven days was long enough to conduct an investigation.

Before being taken back to Border Patrol Police headquarters in Phathum Thani, Sonthiyarn thanked the court for providing him justice. He also threatened legal action against the caretaker government for ordering his arrest and the police raid on his house.

Department of Special Investigation (DSI) director Tarit Pengdith said that his agency will tomorrow ask for the court permission to detain him for 12 more days for insurrection.

Meanwhile, the Senate committee on Human Rights and Liberties and Consumer Protection received a complaint from Sonthiyarn's daughter: Gingkarakade, accusing police of "ill treatment" during their raid on the rally leader's home. More than 50 police searched Sonthiyarn's house on Tuesday.

Gingkarakade said that police went too far by climbing over the wall to the house without ringing the bell, and were rude to the family.

In a related development, the Civil Court has revoked the freezing of bank accounts belonging to former Thammasat University lecturer Seri Wongmontha, one of the core anti-government rally leaders.

The ruling was announced yesterday after Seri Wongmontha sought an injunction from the court against the DSI's freezing of his seven bank accounts.

Tarit ordered the bank accounts of many rally leaders to be frozen in an attempt to crack down on the protests.

The court said that an investigation into his accounts had revealed no movement in the accounts and added that these contained only negligible sums of a few hundred or a few thousand baht.

The court ruled that the DSI's order to freeze the accounts was not justified and ordered the agency to put a halt to the freeze within seven days.

Seri, however, was instructed to put in writing a promise that should a future investigation reveal unusual movements of money, he must return the money withdrawn from the bank.


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