Bangkok - Thailand’s first-ever trial of alleged Jemaah Islamiah (JI) operatives ended with the four suspects being acquitted. According to the Criminal Court, there was a lack of physical evidence to convict the men on charges of conspiring to attack at least five foreign embassies in Bangkok.
The accused, Waewmahadi Waedao, 48, a doctor and owner of a drug store, Maisuri Hai Abdulloh, 52, owner of an Islamic religious school, and his son Muyahi, 23, and Samarn Waekaji, 52, appeared in court on June 1 to hear the verdict. The men will remain in detention pending an appeal by public prosecutors.
The four were charged with attempting to plot a serious act that threatened national security, being members of an illegal association and illegal assembly. The charges against them were based on information from alleged JI leader Arifin bin Ali, a Singaporean arrested in 2003 and handed over to the authorities inSingapore.
Their arrests created an uproar in Thailand's Muslim-majority South, where ethnic Malays have long accused security forces of employing questionable tactics in their hunt for local insurgents and international terrorists. An even bigger uproar erupted after Somchai Neelaphaijit, the lawyer for the four suspects, went missing. His fate remains unknown.
According to the judges, there was insufficient evidence to convict the men. The judges noted that Thai police were unable to find any weapon, materials, handbook, or guidelines for making bombs. The police also did not find any vehicle for use in conducting terrorist acts.
The court said it had insufficient evidence the suspects had intended to set up a JI terror network in Thailand or survey bombing targets in Pattaya and Phuket as alleged.
Mr Nithi Hassan, Bangkok-based president of the Council of Muslim Organisations of Thailand, told Singapore’s The Straits Times: “We expected this, everybody knew the case against them was weak. The verdict shows that we can still pin our hopes on the justice system.”
* Muslims acquitted of JI bomb plot charges (The Nation, June 2)
* Bangkok court acquits four JI suspects (The Straits Times, June 2)
* Four acquitted of terrorist charges (Bangkok Post, June 2)