BANGKOK — Two suspects accused of killing 20 people at a shrine in Bangkok denied the charges today before a military tribunal.
Adem Karadag, 31, aka Bilal Mohammed, told the military court Tuesday he was not even in Thailand at the time of the Aug. 17 explosion at the Erawan Shrine, which killed mostly foreign tourists.
His co-defendant, 27-year-old Yusufu Mieraili, said he did not want the court-appointed military lawyer assigned to him despite his request for civilian representation.
"I am not guilty and I have been in jail for six months," Mieraili said in court through a Uighur translator. "I want to find a lawyer and pay for it myself."
Through his lawyer Schoochart Kanpai, Karadag admitted to entering Thailand illegally with a fake passport, saying he sought to travel on to work in Malaysia to help support his family in Turkey, who had already fled China’s far flung Xinjiang territory.
Both defendants are ethnic Chinese Uighurs. Uighurs have complained of systematic discrimination and abuse by Chinese authorities. Violent attacks against Han Chinese have led Beijing to brand some as terrorists.
Outside the court, Karadag’s lawyer said that while being detained inside an army camp in Bangkok, Karadag was waterboarded, forced to be naked in a cold room, and blindfolded while a dog threatened him.
Defense lawyer Schoochart Kanpai speaks to reporters Tuesday outside the military court in Bangkok.
Karadag alleges that he paid an agent, Abdullah Abdullahman, who he believed to be Turkish, to help get into Thailand. Abdullahman took him from a hotel in Vietnam to Laos and then entered Thailand on Aug. 21.
He said Abdullahman took him to stay at the Poon Anan Apartment in eastern Bangkok where he was arrested Aug. 29. Mieraili was taken into Thai custody Sept. 1.
Karadag's lawyer repeated allegations that his was tortured to confess many times between Sept. 14 and Sept. 26. Karadag claimed officers threatened to kill or deport him back to China.
In a letter obtained today by Khaosod English, he alleged that top officials were present when threats were made.
Through his lawyer, Karadag said he ended up confessing Sept. 22 that he was the man in pictures shown to him by police: the man in the yellow shirt who placed the bomb inside the shrine, a man in a gray shirt seen later inside Lumpini Park, and a man in a blue shirt who left a bomb in the water near Sathorn Pier.
Three days before he was led by police to publically “re-enact” the crime on Sept. 26, Karadag said he was taken on the morning of Sept. 23 to four places and told to say he was there before. They included the Erawan Shrine, a pier, a bridge and a mosque. He said he was accompanied by police officers including police chief Chakthip Chaijinda and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sriwarah Rangsitpramkul.
After being held in custody for nearly three months, the two accused were indicted Nov. 24 on 10 counts including premeditated murder and possession of explosives for the attack. They were not charged with terrorism.
Seventeen suspects were named in arrest warrants during the course of the investigation, but the two Uighur men remain the only to be arrested.
The next scheduled hearing is April 20, when the evidence against them will be examined.