Trial Resumes for Chinese Uygur Men Accused of Bombing Bangkok’s Erawan Shrine
BANGKOK – The trial of two Chinese Uygur men accused of carrying out a bombing at a Bangkok landmark last year that killed 20 people, has resumed after the Military Court appointed a new translator.
Yusufu Mieraili, 27, and Bilal Mohammed, 31, also known as Adem Karadag, both ethnic Uygur Chinese, were appointed a translator by the Bangkok Military Court, despite the pairâ€™s protestations that they did not trust the courtâ€™s choice.
On October 25, the court ordered that the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok be approached to provide a suitable translator â€“ either Uygur to English, or Mandarin to Thai â€“ as the defendants both held Chinese passports.
Mieraili Yusufu and Bilal Mohammad, have pleaded not guilty in the Aug. 17, 2015, bombing of the Erawan shrine, which is popular among Chinese and other tourists.
At the hearing on Tuesday they complained that the newly appointed interpreter could not be trusted, as they had been selected by the Chinese Embassy. The military court rejected their claim, and insisted that the trial would now proceed as planned, with three observers appointed by the Chinese Embassy.
The charges against the defendants include conspiracy to explode bombs and commit premeditated murder.
The first witness, police officer Lt. Col. Somkiat Ploytubtim, who was part of the police investigation team, began testimony saying “I saw many people with serious injuries and many dead. The shrine itself was damaged.”
Police say the case against the two men 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 Bilal, also known as Adem Karadag.
The defendants are the only two suspects in custody out of the 17 people that authorities say were responsible for the bombing, one of the deadliest acts of violence in Bangkok in decades.
Some of the 15 other suspects are Turks, with whom Uighurs share ethnic bonds. Beijing charges that some Uighurs are Islamist terrorists and that some have been smuggled out of China to join Islamic State fighters in Syria via Turkey.
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