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Suspects claim innocence in court over Erawan bombing

Feb 16. 2016
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By Jitraporn Senwong
Khanathit S

Key suspect claims he was tortured and threatened in military camp
TWO UIGHUR bomb suspects in the deadly Erawan Shrine attack denied all charges against them at the Bangkok Military Court yesterday. 
One of them, Bilal Mohammed, previously identified as Adem Karadag, also claimed that he had been subjected to torture and intimidation while being detained inside a military camp. 
Bilal and the other suspect, Mieraili Yusufu, now insist that they are innocent.
They spoke to the court for the first time yesterday. 
It has been reported that both men had confessed to their role in staging the bomb attack at the Erawan Shrine on August 17 last year. The explosion shocked the entire nation, killing 20 people and injuring more than 120 others. 
Police have also linked the two suspects to another explosion, which took place near the Sathorn Pier the following day but caused no casualties. 
Bilal was arrested soon after the fatal explosion took place. However, it was not until several weeks later that police identified Bilal as the man wearing a yellow shirt whom security-camera recordings showed placing a suspicious bag at the Erawan Shrine and leaving the site just minutes before the blast erupted. 
Mieraili was nabbed near the Thai-Cambodian borders last September. He reportedly confessed to the crimes from the very beginning.
However, when he appeared at the courtroom yesterday, Mieraili said via an interpreter, “I am an innocent Muslim”. 
The defendant also said he would like to find his own lawyer and asked the court to urgently proceed with the hearing so that he could prove his innocence. 
Bilal’s lawyer, Choochat Kanphai, meanwhile insisted that his client had never made any confession. 
“He entered Thailand on August 21 last year, several days after the blast took place,” Choochart said. 
He added that Bilal had been tortured and threatened with deportation to China during the period from September 20 to 26. 
Both Mieraili and Bilal said they were Uighur-ethnic Chinese nationals. 
National Police Commissioner General Chakthip Chaijinda said he was not worried about Bilal’s decision to retract his alleged confession. 
“We have confidence in the evidence we have gathered,” he said. 
He also denied claims that Bilal was tortured during the interrogation process. 
Plaintiffs presented 50 files of evidence and sought to prosecute the suspects on 10 charges related to the Bangkok bombings. 
The court yesterday gave Mieraili 30 days to find a new lawyer. It will examine evidence related to the case on April 20-22. 
Thai authorities have also issued arrest warrants for several other suspects in connection with the deadly blast. A foreign news agency has said two of these suspects have been arrested abroad and Thailand is in the process of requesting their extradition.

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