Monday 20 February 2017

Bangkok bombing trial: Two foreigners accused of carrying out the deadly bombing brought to a military court

Published 16/02/2016 | 08:36

Experts investigate at the site of a blast in central Bangkok August 17, 2015. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
Experts investigate at the site of a blast in central Bangkok August 17, 2015. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
The suspects in Erawan Shrine blast, Bilal Mohammad, front, and Mieraili Yusufu, arrive at a military court in Bangkok (AP)

Two foreigners accused of carrying out the deadly bombing of a Bangkok landmark last year were brought to a military court for the start of their trial.

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The two men - Bilal Mohammad and Mieraili Yusufu - are facing 10 charges, including conspiracy to explode bombs and commit premeditated murder.

Reporters were allowed inside the courtroom, but were asked to leave their phones, notebooks and pens outside.

It is expected that the suspects will enter their pleas on Tuesday, which will be followed by questioning and the formal trial.

Authorities have described the suspects as ethnic Uighurs from western China's far western Xinjiang region.

They say the August 17 bombing of the Erawan Shrine was revenge by a people-smuggling gang whose activities were disrupted by a crackdown.

However, some analysts suspected it might have been the work of Uighur separatists who were angry that Thailand in July forcibly repatriated more than 100 Uighurs to China, where they may be persecuted.

The Erawan Shrine is popular among Chinese tourists, and many were among the victims. Twenty people, including 14 foreign tourists, were killed and more than 120 injured in the bombing, one of the deadliest acts of violence in Bangkok in decades.

Police are hunting for another 15 suspects in the case, but no progress has been announced.

On Monday, Bilal's lawyer, Chuchart Kanpai, told The Associated Press that Bilal says he was tortured by security personnel into falsely confessing to the attack.

He said his client would deny all charges brought before the court except that of illegal entry into Thailand.

"He was tortured by officials. He didn't know if they were soldiers or police because they were non-uniformed," he said. "Back then, he confessed so that he wouldn't be tortured again. He was just saying it."

Yusufu, whose intentions for his court appearance were not known, was arrested on September 1 near the Thai-Cambodia border. He was carrying a Chinese passport that indicated he was from China's Xinjiang region.

Police say the case against the two suspects is supported by closed-circuit television footage, witnesses, DNA matching and physical evidence, in addition to their confessions.

Police believe Yusufu detonated the bomb minutes after a backpack containing the device was left at the shrine by a yellow-shirted man they suspect was Bilal.

Press Association

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