By CS Thana
BANGKOK (AA) - Thai authorities are searching for a Turkic language speaker to translate in the trial of two Uighur men charged with the 2015 Bangkok bombing after their Uzbek translator was arrested by Thai police.
Choochart Khanphai, the lawyer for one of the suspects, told Anadolu Agency on Monday that authorities have not been able to find someone to translate from Uighur to English since Sirojiddin Bakhodirov was arrested last week on narcotics charges.
"Police are still continuing the search for translators but so far there are no leads," Khanphai added.
Bakhodirov -- currently held in a Bangkok jail where he awaits formal charges -- has claimed he is being framed by police for helping the alleged bombers.
“I am innocent. I’ve been jailed for translating for two Uighur who are Bangkok shrine bombing suspects,” he told Radio Free Asia by telephone Friday.
“If I am deported back to Uzbekistan I will face seven years’ imprisonment for helping courts in a foreign nation," he claimed. "I have a daughter in Uzbekistan and my family is under stress."
Bakhodirov has also said he was beaten by several men who told him to "stop helping the Uighur", and warned him to stay away from the case.
Adem Karadag and Yusuf Mieraili have been charged with the Aug. 17 bombing at a Hindu shrine in downtown Bangkok, which left 20 people dead and 125 others injured.
The two men -- who have denied the charges -- last appeared at a Thai military court May 17, shackled, barefoot, and distraught.
“I am no animal,” said shaven-headed Adem Karadag -- also named as Bilal Mohammed and Bilal Turk -- as he was dragged into court in his orange prison uniform by guards after trying to plead with media.
"We're innocent, help us, help us, where are the human rights?"
The two men's next court appearance is scheduled for Aug. 23 and 24
Police have said that both suspects have confessed to being paid by a mastermind to build and plant the bomb, but Karadag’s lawyer has petitioned the court on the grounds that his client has said he was tortured by plainclothes men 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.
Uzbek and Uighur are dialects of the Turkic language family spoken by Turkic peoples from Southeast Europe and the Mediterranean to Siberia and Western China.
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.