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Ousted Thai PM Makes Closing Statement in Criminal Trial

Thailand's former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, center, receives a flower from her supporter at the Supreme Court after making her final statements in a trial on a charge of criminal negligence in Bangkok, Thailand, Aug. 1, 2017.

Ex-Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra maintained her innocence in her closing statement Tuesday before a Bangkok court in her criminal trial on alleged negligence.

Yingluck is accused of mishandling a multi-billion dollar rice-buying scheme initiated during her tenure as prime minister. Under the program, the government bought rice at above-market prices from poor farmers and resold it later at a higher price. But the scheme backfired, sustaining over $1 billion in losses and leaving Thailand with huge stockpiles of unsold rice.

Victim of 'political game'

The country's first female prime minister defended her actions during her closing statement, saying she was the victim of a “political game.”

Yingluck was greeted by a huge crowd of supporters when she arrived at the courthouse to deliver her closing statement. “I hope that there will be justice,” she told the crowd.

Yingluck faces 10 years in prison if she is convicted. The verdict will be issued on Aug. 25.

Military coup

Yingluck was overthrown in 2014 in a military coup, capping a decade-long period of political turmoil that began when her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, was himself forced out of office by the military, which backed Thailand's Bangkok-based royalist-leaning, wealthy elite.

The anti-Thaksin forces, who protested in the streets of Bangkok wearing yellow shirts, gave rise to the pro-Thaksin Red Shirts, whose ranks included the rural poor who strongly supported Thaksin's policies. The two sides engaged in violent, sometimes deadly clashes in the streets of Bangkok during that era.

Thaksin himself has lived in exile since 2008 to avoid corruption charges brought against him.