By CS Thana
BANGKOK (AA) – One of two ethnic Uighur facing trial for a bombing that killed 20 people in Bangkok last year was dragged into a Thai military court by guards after trying to plead with media Tuesday.
“I am no animal,” said a shackled Adem Karadag, who wore an orange prison uniform and had his head shaven.
Karadag, 31, and Yusuf Mieraili, 29, have been charged with ten counts of criminal violation each, including pre-meditated murder -- which carries the death penalty -- possession of explosives, and legal entry into Thailand.
The Aug. 17 bombing at a Hindu shrine in downtown Bangkok left 20 people dead and 125 others injured.
Karadag, who has also been identified by Thai police as Bilal Mohammed and Bilal Turk, and Mieraili were arrested around two weeks after the explosion.
At a February hearing, they denied all charges, with the exception of Karadag admitting to illegal entry.
Police have said that both suspects have confessed to being paid by a mastermind to build and plant the bomb, but Karadag’s lawyer Choochart Khanphai has petitioned the Bangkok court on the ground that his client said he had been tortured by plainclothes men while in military custody.
"My client was intimidated by these men, they were waterboarded, threatened with large dogs and threatened with deportation to China," he told reporters after the February hearing.
Thai courts had issued arrest warrants for 17 suspects in connection with the bombing, but only Karadag and Mieraili were captured.
Both were detained at a prison within a Bangkok military facility where the deaths of two lese-majeste suspects since October has raised questions.
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva called in November 2015 for the closure of the facility.
In the past year, allegations of torturing suspects to gain confessions have been leveled at both Thai police and military.
Both Karadag and Mieraili have refused to provide their addresses in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region out of “fear of reprisal" from the government, who the Muslim minority group accuses of curtailing their cultural and religious rights.
While police have claimed the bombing was masterminded by human traffickers, angry at Thai authorities for clamping down on their networks, Khanphai has said that the bomb was connected to the controversial deportation of a Uighur group held in Thai immigration centers to China.