CHIANGRAI TIMES – It will be months before a Thailand’s appeals court hands down its verdict on whether two men can be extradited to Australia over the murder of Victorian good Samaritan Luke Mitchell, legal sources say.
Surad Seehaverachart, 29, and Thatiya Terdputham, 26, are accused of killing Mr Mitchell in Melbourne in May 2009.
Australian authorities want to try the pair for the murder of Mr Mitchell, who was bashed and stabbed to death while trying to save another man being assaulted outside a nightclub in Brunswick, northern Melbourne.
The alleged killers fled to Thailand just hours after the stabbing.
Both men, who were students in Australia, have pleaded not guilty to the murder, saying they had fought in self defence and claim a third man was responsible for the killing.
In November 2011, the Bangkok Criminal Court found they were eligible to be extradited to Australia.
However, they appealed that decision in January, and legal sources in Thailand now say it could be four months before the judge’s return with a decision on their extradition case.
If they hadn’t lodged the appeal, the two Thai men could have been extradited to Australia within 90 days of the original verdict.
Seehaverachart was arrested in Thailand in September, 2010, and Terdputham was nabbed the following month.
A spokesman from the Australian attorney-general’s department told AAP the appeal decision for Seehaverachart and Terdputham remained within the Thai judicial system.
In the Thai appeals system, the judges’ decision is made known to the parties only within 48 hours of the verdict being handed down, the legal sources say.
The identities of the judge or judges overseeing an appeal in extradition cases are unknown to the plaintiffs until a verdict is read out.
The legal sources say a final verdict may still be up to four months away.
If the judges support the appeal and overturn the original criminal court verdict, the two men could walk free.
However, the sources say based on previous extradition cases that is unlikely.
Australia, however, doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Thailand.
Thai prosecutors, acting on behalf of the Victorian Police and the attorney-general’s department, had argued the case based on Thailand’s extradition treaty with Britain, and Australia being a member of the British Commonwealth.
The Thai judge at the November 2011 hearing based his decision on the belief the Australian judicial system was credible and trustworthy, with both men having access to the legal system and Australia no longer having capital punishment.
Seehaverachart’s mother, Cholika Nonnithikul, had said her son was fearful of not receiving a fair trial in an Australian court.