The courtroom interpreter for two Uyghurs accused in the 2015 Bangkok bombing was released on bail Friday afternoon after being held two days for alleged possession of drugs, sources said Monday.
Police Captain Pongsak Nonthachote, the officer in charge of Srojiddin Bakhadirov’s case, told BenarNews that he brought the Uzbek national to Bangkok South Court on Friday to seek an extension of custody pending a court review of the case.
“He was given a bailout at 16:00 hours on June 3,” an information official at Bangkok South Court told BenarNews by phone. The official did not disclose who had provided the bail money.
But Bakhadirov claimed he was still in police custody when he spoke to Radio Free Asia, a sister entity of BenarNews, at around 9 p.m. Friday.
“I am innocent. I’ve been jailed for translating for two Uyghurs who are Bangkok shrine bombing suspects,” he said at the time, adding that he had been beaten around the waist by police.
A reporter heard him cry out in evident distress before the phone connection was abruptly cut. Repeated attempts to reach him again were not successful.
‘Police work with transparency’
Pongsak denied that police had beaten Bakhadirov.
“The police work with transparency and never beat him up. We do our best,” he said.
The Uzbek man was arrested June 1 after he allegedly purchased a small amount of crystal meth and marijuana from a drug dealer near Bangkok’s Sukhumvit area. He initially faced a charge of possession of narcotics, but Pongsak said the case had not yet been wrapped up.
“I asked for custody and now I have 84 days to conclude the case and forward it to the attorney general. I cannot tell you which charges he is facing for now,” he told BenarNews.
Bakhadirov could face charges of overstaying his visa as well because immigration clemency extended while he served as court translator would automatically be revoked, according to Chalida Tajaroensuk, director of the People’s Empowerment Foundation, an NGO which has been assisting Uyghurs in Thailand since 2014.
Chuchart Kanpai, a lawyer for Adem Karadag and Yusufu Mieraili, the defendants in the Erawan Shrine bombing case, told BenarNews he could not locate Bakhadirov.
“Police sought his custody on Friday and I heard he got bail, but after that, we don’t know where he is,” he said.
The two men say they are innocent in the Aug. 17, 2015 bombing that killed 20 people and injured 125 at the popular Hindu shrine. Their lawyer alleged at court in February that Karadag had been tortured into confessing.
The next court hearing in the case is scheduled for Aug. 23 and 24.
Uyghurs have fled unrest in northwestern China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where hundreds of people have been killed in spates of violence in recent years.
Uyghur exiles and rights groups have criticized Chinese authorities’ heavy-handed rule in the region – including police raids on Uyghur households, restrictions on Islamic practices, and curbs on the culture and language of the Uyghur people – which, they say, has forced many to flee overseas, often through Southeast Asia.