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Thai protest leader denies 'Red Shirt' murder charge

BANGKOK--The firebrand leader of months-long street protests which preceded Thailand's latest coup appeared in court Monday to deny a murder charge over a bloody crackdown on opposition “Red Shirt” supporters four years ago.

Suthep Thaugsuban was deputy prime minister of the then-ruling Democrat Party during the 2010 crackdown, which left more than 90 people dead and hundreds more wounded in the heart of Bangkok.

“There were deaths and injuries caused by live bullets during the crackdown ordered by the defendant,” a judge, whose name was withheld by the criminal court, said reading out the charge.

“I deny it,” Suthep said, sporting a shaven head and the orange robes of a Buddhist monk after a stint in the clergy earlier this month. Many Thai men enter monkhood at some time during their lives in the overwhelmingly Buddhist nation.

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, premier during the crackdown, appeared alongside his former deputy in court but remained silent. He has already denied a murder charge.

The judge ordered the pair to return on Aug. 28 for the next hearing in their joint trial.

Under Abhisit's government, scores of protesters died in street clashes in the capital in 2010 between mostly unarmed Red Shirt demonstrators and security forces firing live rounds.

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