Thai judge accepts Uyghur bomb suspects request for Halal food

Lawyer for Adem Karadag, Yusufu Mieraili says 2025 verdict possible in deadly attack at Erawan Shrine.
By Nontarat Phaicharoen for BenarNews
2024.02.21
Bangkok
Thai judge accepts Uyghur bomb suspects request for Halal food
Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters

A judge on Wednesday ordered Thailand’s corrections system to provide two Uyghur terrorism suspects with the Halal food they have been requesting for years, as the pair appeared in court visibly emaciated and in wheelchairs.

Defendants Adem Karadag and Yusufu Mieraili are accused of carrying out the Aug. 17, 2015, bombing at the Erawan Shrine in central Bangkok that killed 20 people and injured scores more, just weeks after Thai authorities forcibly sent almost 100 Uyghur Muslims to China. They have been in custody since their arrests within two weeks of the attack.

Mieraili shared that “he, at 35, and Karadag, at 39, have significantly deteriorated in health, losing over 10 kg [22 pounds] due to stomach pains and chronic bloating caused by poor living conditions and inconvenient meal arrangements.”

The pair – the only two inmates housed at a temporary detention center within a military zone – would skip some meals because they were not provided Halal food as per Islamic principles.

“For three years, they didn’t provide us Halal food,” Mieraili told the judge. “We told them we don’t eat pork, yet they still served it to us, claiming there was no pork. When we ate, we found minced pork and chicken blood. We can’t eat that. We wanted them to arrange proper meals for us.”

His statement proved effective.

“The court will instruct the Department of Corrections to ensure that prisoners are provided food according to their religious rights,” the judge ruled. “Religion is a delicate matter, and a letter will be sent to the prison to arrange Halal food for the defendants as they are entitled.”

Similar requests

Karadag and Mieraili made similar requests for Halal food during court appearances in January 2022 and again in August 2023 – the last time they appeared in court. They returned to the Bangkok court on Tuesday and are expected to attend hearings through Friday.

Since being taken into custody, Mieraili has become fluent in Thai and is able to communicate with his lawyer and interact with prison officials. In court, he served as an interpreter for Karadag who is less proficient in Thai. 

“Karadag had to have seven teeth extracted recently and now wears dentures,” Mieraili told BenarNews before the court session began. “He has been unable to walk for over six months due to lack of strength, experiencing dizziness upon standing. I had to undergo hernia surgery last week and have been advised by the hospital to remain for another two weeks. Currently, Adem is the only one in the temporary military prison.”

A man prays at the Erawan Shrine at the Rajprasong intersection, the scene of a deadly bombing a week earlier in Bangkok, Aug. 24, 2015. (Sakchai Lalit/AP)
A man prays at the Erawan Shrine at the Rajprasong intersection, the scene of a deadly bombing a week earlier in Bangkok, Aug. 24, 2015. (Sakchai Lalit/AP)

On Wednesday, defense lawyer Choochat Kanphai said the pair wanted to be transferred from the temporary detention center to the Bangkok Special Prison because they thought living conditions and food would be better, but he was told that such requests were beyond the court’s jurisdiction.

Before court, the attorney spoke to BenarNews about the slow pace of the trial.

“With 50 witnesses already examined out of a list of approximately 100, we expect the verdict could be read next year,” Choochat said.

Trial History

Following their arrests, Karadag and Mieraili saw their trial begin in a military court only to have the case transferred to the Southern Bangkok Criminal Court. This shift occurred after Prayuth Chan-o-cha, the army general who became prime minister after leading a military coup in 2014, was formally elected into office in 2019. 

The defendants, who identified themselves as Uyghurs from Urumqi in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China, 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.

Chalida Tajaroensuk, director of the People’s Empowerment Foundation, has been monitoring the case over the years and said the likelihood of reaching a verdict in the near future had improved.

“The case has made progress, and it seems that the court is genuinely intent on concluding the case promptly,” she said. “Orders were given for the prosecution and defense to eliminate unnecessary witnesses.”

“The defense’s rigorous questioning aimed at proving discrepancies between actual physical evidence and passport information has raised hopes that both defendants could be acquitted,” she said. “However, everything ultimately depends on the court’s judgment.”

Chalida expressed her hope for increased attention from civil society and the international community regarding the future of the two if they are acquitted. 

“The concern is what happens next for them if they are released,” she said. “If China seeks their repatriation, it becomes problematic given their decade-long struggle. We need to collectively consider how to handle this situation, including the possibility of another country offering them asylum, which could ensure their safety.”

BenarNews is an RFA-affiliated online news service.

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