World

Translator for Bangkok bomb suspects held

A translator for the two Uighur men accused of last year's deadly Bangkok bombing was remanded in custody yesterday for drug possession.

It further complicated a murky trial that has failed to answer key questions about the unprecedented attack on Thailand.

Sirojiddin Bakhodirov was arrested this week with small amounts of marijuana and crystal meth. Yesterday, a Bangkok court extended the Uzbek national's remand, according to police.

But Bakhodirov, who is the only Uighur translator at the Bangkok bomb trial, told AFP by phone that the drugs were planted on him as punishment for helping Thailand's Uighur community.

The members of the mostly Muslim ethnic minority say they face persecution and discrimination in their homeland in north-western China, forcing many to flee. They often use Thailand as a transit country.

'SET-UP'

Two Uighur men were arrested over the bombing on Aug 17 last year that killed 20 people - mostly ethnic Chinese tourists - at Bangkok's Erawan Shrine.

"I am innocent, they set me up," Bakhodirov told AFP of his drug charges.

"They don't want me to translate because I help the Uighur community."

Police have denied the framing allegations.

"It happens to be that (the suspect) is related to a high-profile case. That is why it is getting attention from the public," said deputy police spokesman Krissana Pattanacharoen.

Bakhodirov told AFP that army officers interrogated him about Uighurs in other parts of Thailand after his arrest.

The two Uighurs accused of the bombing deny the charges and one of the suspects, Bilal Mohammed, said police tortured him into making a confession which he later retracted.

The most recent court hearing saw Bakhodirov translate testimony from a sobbing Bilal as he accused Thai captors of beating him and denying him halal food in prison.

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