A man who served as a courtroom interpreter for two Uyghurs accused in a deadly bombing in Bangkok last year is in jail for alleged possession of drugs, a Thai activist said Friday.
But Uzbekistan national Sirojiddin Bakhodirov claimed he had been framed for helping the two Uyghur men, and beaten by police.
Bakhodirov – also known as Sergy – was arrested on Wednesday in Bangkok’s Sukhumvit area, according to Chalida Tajaroensuk, who received a phone call from him later that night from the Lumpini Police Station.
Chalida is director of People’s Empowerment Foundation, which has been assisting Uyghurs in Thailand since 2014.
“We were worried whether he was framed. But the police had evidence. Then they asked to have his urine test and it was positive. I and two lawyers were there,” she told BenarNews.
“According to the police, a black [market] drug pusher disappeared as Sergy boarded a taxi and they captured him. He was found with marijuana and ice,” she added, using a slang term for crystal methamphetamine.
Chalida said she would have difficulty finding another person to serve as an interpreter for the two men accused of carrying out the Aug. 17, 2015 bombing at Bangkok’s Erawan Shrine.
Adem Karadag and Yusufu Mieraili’s next court appearance is scheduled for Aug. 23 and 24, she said. On those days the court will hear more witness testimony in the bombing that killed 20 people and injured 125 at the popular Hindu shrine.
The two men, who have denied the charges against them, last appeared in court on May 17, shackled, barefoot, and distraught.
Adem Karadag shouted in English to reporters outside the court: “I’m human! I’m not an animal!”
"We're innocent, help us, help us, where are the human rights?" Reuters quoted Mieraili as saying.
‘I am innocent’
Bakhodirov spoke by telephone late Friday to Radio Free Asia, a sister entity of BenarNews, from Bangkok South Court, where police brought him earlier in the day seeking to extend his custody.
“I am innocent. I’ve been jailed for translating for two Uyghurs who are Bangkok shrine bombing suspects,” he said, adding that he had been beaten around the waist by police.
“If I am deported back to Uzbekistan I will face seven years’ imprisonment for helping courts in a foreign nation. I have a daughter in Uzbekistan and my family is under stress,” he said.
A reporter then heard him cry out in evident distress before the phone connection was abruptly cut.
Chalida said Bakhodirov could face charges of overstaying his visa as well as possession of drugs because immigration clemency extended while he served as court translator would automatically be revoked.
If convicted, he is likely to be sent back to Uzbekistan in three months’ time, she added.
Contacted by BenarNews, Pisek Panupat, a press officer at the Thai Embassy in Washington, said he had no information about the arrest, or about 19 Uyghurs reportedly on a hunger strike since May 31 at immigration detention facilities in Thailand.
The Uyghurs were protesting their possible deportation to China, one detainee said.
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.
Reported by BenarNews staff in Bangkok and Washington.