2 Uyghur suspects in Bangkok bombing return to court after 9-month delay

Nontarat Phaicharoen
2 Uyghur suspects in Bangkok bombing return to court after 9-month delay Uyghurs Yusufu Mieraili (left) and Adem Karadag, suspects in the August 2015 bombing of the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, are escorted by a prison officer as they leave court in the Thai capital, March 2, 2020.
Chalinee Thirasupa/Reuters

After appearing in court in a wheelchair as their trial resumed Tuesday, one of two Uyghur men suspected in a deadly bombing in Bangkok said that his eight years of confinement had taken a toll on his health.  

Adem Karadag and co-defendant Yusufu Mieraili have been incarcerated since they were arrested within two weeks of the Aug. 17, 2015, attack at a Buddhist shrine, and they returned to court on Tuesday after a nine-month hiatus in the case, which is still only in the prosecution phase.  

While Mieraili walked into court, Karadag needed a wheelchair as the two defendants returned to hear prosecution testimony. 

“I saw my weight drop from 57 to more than 40 kg (125 to more than 88 pounds) because the prison does not have halal food for me to eat,” Karadag told BenarNews through an interpreter at the courthouse after Tuesday’s deliberations. 

“I am allergic to foods that have pork in them. I wish the prison would give me halal foods.”

Their trial, which has been delayed and disrupted over the years, had to be paused yet again in late 2022 after Mieraili’s lawyer, Jamroen Panonpakakorn, fractured his leg in an accident.

Karadag and Mieraili have been jailed at the military’s Lak Si temporary detention center since their arrest following the attack at the Erawan Shrine, which is popular with Chinese tourists in Bangkok. The blast, which killed 20 people and injured more than 100, occurred weeks after Thai authorities forcibly sent almost 100 Uyghur Muslims to China.

The defendants raised the same issue about the lack of halal food in prison in January 2022, telling BenarNews at the time that they were being fed pork. They also had not been permitted to contact relatives or allowed time in the prison yard.   

A human rights activist who assisted the Uyghurs expressed concern about the pair’s health.

“I am shocked by how sick they look. I’m afraid they might die before the verdict. … I wish the prison would allow a doctor to give them medical checkups because I’m concerned about Karadag’s digestive system,” Chalida Tajaroensuk, director of the People’s Empowerment Foundation, a Thai NGO, told BenarNews.   

Chuchart Kanpai, an attorney who represents Karadag, said the trial appeared to be a long way from being finished, noting that prosecutors had listed 400 potential witnesses. It was unclear if that list would be cut.

“The trial may take about five years,” Chuchart Kanpai told BenarNews. “In the past, I brought halal food to them in jail because the prison does not provide them. They want to be jailed at a normal prison, but I feel the [military] prison suits them better because it’s not crowded.”

Testimony hones in on cellphone

In November 2022, police Lt. Gen. Kamthorn Uncharoen, who served as chief of the bomb squad at the time of the explosion, testified that searchers found black powder and flash powder during a search of the suspects’ apartments. Both items can be used in bomb making.

Kanpai then challenged the admissibility of the police official’s testimony, claiming the military had searched the apartments ahead of the police.

Back in session on Tuesday, police Col. Thanaset Udom-iam, who served as chief investigator, testified that officials found a cell phone belonging to one of the suspects that had photos of bombs stored in it.

The only witness to testify, he did not say whose phone had the pictures.

The trial is to run through Friday and resume from Dec. 12 to 15.

Karadag and Mieraili were charged in military court following their arrests, but saw the case moved to the Southern Bangkok Criminal Court after Prayuth Chan-o-cha, the army general and junta chief who became prime minister after leading a coup in 2014, was elected to the office in 2019. 

The defendants, who identified as Uyghurs from Urumqi in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China, had previously pleaded not guilty in both the military and civilian courts. They could face execution if convicted of charges, which include premeditated killing and possession of explosives.

Uyghurs are Turkic-speaking Muslims who mostly live in the Xinjiang region of China but are also spread across Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkey. They have been leaving China in large numbers to escape alleged persecution and repression by Chinese authorities.


The original military trial got off to a slow start over the lack of qualified courtroom interpreters. 

Since then, a lawyer and a human rights advocate assisting the Uyghurs said that Karadag could not speak Chinese and would prefer a Uyghur-speaking translator, while Mieraili could communicate in English, but not fluently.

Years after their arrest, the Uyghurs met an interpreter proposed by the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok and signed documents accepting the arrangement. The interpreter was selected in August 2021 but was not able to travel to Thailand until the civil trial started in November 2022 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.


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