Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban have formally denied the murder charges laid against them by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI).
“I am innocent and deny the charges,” Mr Abhisit told reporters after he and Suthep emerged from four-and-half hours of questioning by investigators.
The two men also refused to sign documents accepting conditions for not being arrested.
The former prime minister and his former deputy arrived at the DSI office Thursday afternoon to hear the charges against them amid tight police security.
In front of the DSI office, about 50 red shirts, including relatives of those killed in the 2010 violence, hurled abuse at Mr Abhisit and Suthep. The pair were then informed of the murder charges laid against them in connection with the death of a taxi driver from Yasothon.
Earlier, the Criminal Court ruled the driver was killed by bullets fired by soldiers taking part in the military crackdown on United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) protesters in May 2010.
Mr Thaworn, a member of the Democrat Party’s legal team, said under Section 68 of the Criminal Code, Mr Abhisit and Suthep were not at fault as they were performing their duty as state officials to stop illegal violence taking place in the country at the time.
Under Section 200 of the code, DSI boss Tarit Pengdith, as chief investigator in the case, was at fault for bringing false charges against the two and he could be liable to life imprisonment, the Democrat lawyer said.
Moreover, Section 17 of the executive decree for administration in emergency situations protects those in authority in performing their duty under the law from either criminal or disciplinary action, Mr Thaworn said.
The conditions Mr Abhisit and Suthep refused to accept for not being arrested by the DSI prohibit them from leaving the country without approval from investigators; from meddling with evidence; obstructing the investigation into the case; or doing anything which could cause serious damage.
Both insisted they would be good citizens and would not attempt to flee.
“I will not run away,” said Mr Abhisit. “I am not a coward”.
Speaking after hearing the charges and being interrogated for four hours, Mr Abhisit said the DSI was contradicting itself by bringing murder charges against himself and Suthep.
Mr Abhisit said the murder charge was “politically motivated” and vowed to clear his name.
He said investigators said they were not charging him as a prime minister.
But when they explained the case to him,they said he had committed wrongdoing by authorising the killing in his capacity as prime minister.
He also said the DSI had failed to take into account a court ruling that the 2010 political rallies were illegal.
Mr Abhisit said the DSI had given him 45 days to provide extra testimony.
After that, the DSI would forward the case to the prosecutor to decide whether to lay indictments.
Former National Security Council chief Thawil Pliensri said he is willing to accept responsibility if the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) is found in the wrong in its handling of the UDD protests in 2010.
Mr Thawil, currently an adviser to the prime minister, was secretary of the CRES, which was set up by the Abhisit administration to handle the anti-government protests. He said that since a court decision had found the protests were illegal, nobody should go to jail for handling the violence which broke out at the time.
Mr Thawil said Mr Tarit should not be handling cases concerning the 2010 violence, because he was member of the CRES then.
Mr Tarit said he would talk to the media Friday about the interrogations.
The DSI chief added he had launched an inquiry into a leak of a photo featuring Mr Abhisit and Suthep having their fingerprints taken while reporting to investigators to hear the charges.
The picture of the pair appeared on Facebook pages of pro-government red shirts despite the DSI interrogations being held in closed sessions.
The DSI Thursday also brought additional charges against Mr Abhisit and Suthep over flood-relief donations from East Water Group Plc.
This case involves the firm’s donations to the Democrat-run flood relief centre in 2010when the opposition party was in power. The DSI believes donations to the Democrat Party violated Section 71 of the organic law on parties, which says companies in which the government holds shares are forbidden from donating to parties.
Mr Abhisit said he did not believe he broke the law, as the law’s intention is that the source of donations to parties be revealed.