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May 28, 9:37 AM EDT

Thai protest leaders get jail term for anti-government rally

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AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong

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BANGKOK (AP) -- Six prominent protest leaders in Thailand were sentenced to two years in prison Thursday for storming the prime minister's office compound during massive anti-government rallies in 2008 in part of the political turmoil that has plagued the country in the past decade.

A Criminal Court judge said former media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul, former politician Chamlong Srimuang and four other leaders of the People's Alliance for Democracy were guilty of trespassing at the Government House during a 2008 rally.

Their lawyer, Suwat Apaipak, said the six were released on bail because they plan to appeal the verdict.

Thousands of protesters, known as the Yellow Shirts, took over the prime minister's office and occupied the grounds for weeks, accusing the premier of being a proxy of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup.

The protest leaders also led a blockade of Parliament that left hundreds injured and a two-week seizure of Bangkok airports in 2008.

"The facts showed that the defendants and the protesters had trespassed into the Government House by climbing the fence and cutting of the locks, which damaged the government's properties and affected other people's rights and freedom," the verdict said.

The court said an original sentence of three years in jail was reduced because of the defendants' cooperation.

Mostly hailing from the urban elite, the Yellow Shirt protests grew from their visceral hatred for Thaksin, a telecommunications tycoon, whose democratically elected government and allied administrations had won consecutive elections. The Yellow Shirts said he was corrupt and that his proxies were running the country after he went into exile following the coup.

Thaksin's sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was ousted by a court ruling last May, shortly before the military took over power from the government in a coup.

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