A military court in Thailand has ordered the release of 14 student activists pending trial following widespread calls for their release and criticism of the military junta’s strict controls on freedom of speech and assembly.
The students were released Tuesday morning, but still face sedition charges and are expected to face trial in the coming months. Each student faces a maximum of seven years in prison.
The university students were arrested June 26 on charges of sedition and violating the junta’s ban on political gatherings for holding a peaceful anti-coup rally in Bangkok.
11.17 น. บรรยากาศล่าสุดที่ศาลทหาร เพื่อนๆและผู้สนับสนุนขบวนการประชาธิปไตยใหม่ต่างแสดงความดีใจหลังศาลยกคำร้องขอฝากขัง pic.twitter.com/Ug4QB22E2m
— iLawFX (@iLawFX) July 7, 2015
On Tuesday, a military court was to decide whether to extend their pre-trial detention for another 12 days. Journalists weren’t allowed to enter the courtroom.
Since overthrowing an elected government in May 2014, Thailand’s military rulers have jailed opponents who dared to speak out against them. They’ve censored the media, dispersed protesters and forbidden open political debate.
However, students around Thailand have been showing solidarity with the 14 with small protests, which are often observed by the authorities but not interfered with. Supporters also held nightly candlelight vigils outside the prison where the students were being detained.
The ruling junta has come under significant pressure from at home and abroad to release the students.
Last week the EU described their detention as a “disturbing development”, while U.N.’s Human Rights Office for Southeast Asia (OHCHR) called for Thailand “to promptly drop criminal charges” against the students arrested June 26 for “peacefully demonstrating in public”.
Pressure on the junta to drop all charges is likely to continue, though it remains to be seen whether it will give in entirely to public pressure.
This article first appeared on Asian Correspondent
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