Thaksin goes on trial in Thailand
The corruption trial of former Thai Prime Minister
Thaksin Shinawatra has begun in Bangkok,
almost two years after he was overthrown in a coup.
Mr Thaksin and his wife face charges
related to a Bangkok real estate deal.
The couple deny any wrongdoing,
saying the charges of abuse of power
against them are politically motivated.
Meanwhile, a top member of the main party
in the ruling coalition was found guilty of electoral fraud.
The ruling could lead to the party's dissolution.
The Supreme Court banned former House Speaker
Yongyut Tiyapairat, of the People Power Party (PPP),
from politics for five years after finding he was guilty
of vote-buying in 2007.
Mr Thaksin, a telecoms billionaire who owns the
English football club Manchester City,
returned to Thailand in February after 18 months abroad.
The military ousted him in September 2006,
accusing him of corruption and abuse of power.
Mr Thaksin has since been living mostly in the UK,
but his political allies won democratic elections late last year,
facilitating his return to Thailand.
He, his family and his aides face a number of different allegations.
Millions of dollars of his assets have remained frozen since charges were laid.
The case now before the Supreme Court relates
to the purchase of a plot of land in the Thai capital.
The former prime minister is accused of using his political influence
to help his wife buy the land from a state agency at a favourable price.
The couple, who could face lengthy prison terms if convicted,
did not attend court, but their lawyer sounded a positive note.
"We are confident that our evidence will be enough to prove in the court
that Thaksin and his wife are not guilty," Anek Khamchum told the AFP news agency.
But the courts have shown surprising tenacity in pursuing this first case,
says the BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok.
The government has tried to weaken the case by arguing that the
military-backed bodies which investigated Mr Thaksin had no legitimacy.
The courts have ignored that, and have even intervened to
reverse other government decisions.
Many observers in Thailand are calling this a judicial revolution -
where the courts are quietly being asked by the traditional elite
to act as checks on the power of elected governments.
Mr Thaksin's own prospects dimmed significantly when three of his lawyers
were jailed last month by the Supreme Court for offering a cash bribe
in a cake box, our correspondent adds.