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Uyghurs Held 6 Years for Bangkok Erawan Shrine Bombing Denied Basic Rights

Despite never being convicted, Muslim men denied access to family, yard; fed pork & barred from books, paper, phones

Thai police escort Erawan Shrine bombing suspects Adem Karadag (front) and Yusufu Mieraili into a military court in Bangkok in 2016.
Thai police escort Erawan Shrine bombing suspects Adem Karadag (front) and Yusufu Mieraili into a military court in Bangkok in 2016.

Six years after being jailed but never tried, two Ugyhur men accused of bombing Bangkok’s Erawan Shrine in 2015 said they never have been allowed to see their families or go outside and have been fed pork despite being Muslim.

Adem Karadag and Yusufu Mieraili – who were arrested in August 2015 but never convicted – appeared before a judge on Monday for the first time in two years: for a scheduling hearing.

The pair, held in leg chains and handcuffs, told Malaysia’s BenarNews through an interpreter, said they are not permitted books to read or paper to write letters home or even phone calls.

“Our families have not heard from us or are even aware of our arrests,” Karadag said.

In addition to the insult of being fed pork – or nothing at all – Karadag said the worst part of their confinement is that they are not allowed into the prison yard.

“We are not allowed to step outside of the building and do not get to see the sky,” he added.

Karadag and Mieraili have been held at the military’s Lak Si temporary detention center since their arrests, which came two weeks after the Aug. 17, 2015 bombing that killed 20 people and injured more than 100.

The Ugyhur men from China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, widely were seen as scapegoats as Thailand continues to kowtow to China. The army and the military backed government has dragged its feet for more than six years, keeping the men who are innocent until proven guilty jailed in horrendous conditions.

A military tribunal began hearing charges against them in 2016 but the case was moved to a Bangkok criminal court in 2019. If convicted of charges of premeditated murder and using explosives, they face the death penalty.

The attorney for Karadag, Chuchart Kanpai, said the defense and prosecution teams agreed that testimony would begin late this year. The prosecution plans to bring 424 witnesses starting Nov. 1, a process that could years.

Mieraili’s lawyer, Jamroen Panonpakakorn, said the defendants will seek to question only five to 10 witnesses.

The court scheduled sessions for Nov. 1-2, Nov. 22-25, and Dec. 6-9.

A factor in the delays has been language. Karadag cannot speak Chinese and wanted a Uyghur-speaking translator. Mieraili can speak serviceable English.

On Monday, the Uyghurs finally met an interpreter proposed by the Chinese Embassy and signed documents accepting the arrangement. He had been approved in August, but banned from entering Thailand after the government refused to grant a exemption to Covid-19 entry restrictions.

Chalida Tajaroensuk, director of the People’s Empowerment Foundation, a Thai NGO, said appointing a Beijing-approved translator shows the Thai justice system doesn’t know, or doesn’t care, about the complexities of the Uyghur’s situation in China.

Beijing has been accused of genocide in the autonomous region.

“The court should not employ an interpreter from the Chinese government under these political circumstances. It shows that this process of hiring an interpreter is not sensible,” she said.