Mon, Jun 01, 2015 - Page 5 News List

Murder suspects in Thailand wait for evidence reanalysis

AFP, BANGKOK

Lawyers for two Myanmar nationals accused of murdering a pair of British tourists in Thailand yesterday said they have “deep concerns” that they will be unable to independently review forensic evidence before the trial starts.

Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun have pleaded not guilty to the murder of 24-year-old David Miller and the rape and murder of Hannah Witheridge, 23, on the Thai island of Koh Tao in September last year.

The pair’s defense team has long voiced concerns over the quality of the Thai police investigation, claiming the crime scene was contaminated and that their clients were tortured into confessing.

In April, a court on nearby Koh Samui approved the defense’s request to independently analyze the evidence against their clients, including DNA and physical evidence at the crime scene, such as blood stains and a shirt.

However, the lead lawyer on the defense said his team had been told by the court that they would only find out whether they can access the evidence on Monday next week — the first day of the trial.

“The defense lawyers urgently need both crucial information gained from the re-examination of forensics evidence in this case and also adequate time to consider this information prior to the trial beginning. I am now deeply concerned at this developing situation,” defense attorney Nakhon Chomphuchat said in a statement released yesterday.

“Forensic evidence is central to this case. Without reexamination of this evidence ... the ability of the two defendants to defend themselves against the serious crimes they are charged [with] will be seriously impeded,” he added.

The court was unreachable over the weekend.

The defendants, both aged 22, confessed to the crimes after their arrest in October last year, but later retracted the admission of guilt, alleging it had been extracted under duress.

Rights groups have accused Thai authorities of using the men as scapegoats.

However, both police and prosecutors have defended their investigation and insist that the forensic evidence is solid. The victims’ families have also said they have seen strong evidence against the suspects and expressed confidence in the case after British detectives traveled to Thailand to observe the investigation.

Miller and Witheridge’s corpses were discovered on a Koh Tao beach on Sept. 15 last year. Police said both had been bludgeoned to death, while Witheridge’s body showed signs of sexual abuse.

The accused, who have been in custody on Koh Samui since October, face several charges, including murder, rape and robbery.

The murders further damaged Thailand’s image as a tourist haven after months of political protests followed by an army coup in May last year.

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