Two Chinese ethnic Uighur men standing trial in the August 2015 Bangkok bombing case pleaded innocent Tuesday. Bilal Mohammad and Mieraili Yusufu were arrested in August and September in connection to the blasts at the popular Erawan shrine near a busy intersection of the Thai capital.
Bilal and Yusufu are facing eight charges related to the bombing that claimed the lives of 20 people, including conspiracy to explode bombs and commit premeditated murder. Bilal faces two more charges of violating immigration law by entering Thailand illegally, the Associated Press reported.
Bilal is also known as Adem Karadag — the name on a fake Turkish passport he was carrying when Thai police took him into custody. Both of them told the Thai military court Tuesday that they were Chinese nationals belonging to the Uighur minority, from the city of Urumqi in western China's Xinjiang region, according to the AP.
"I am an innocent Muslim," Yusufu told the court, Reuters reported. He asked the court to speed up the proceedings because he had already spent six months in prison.
Bilal’s lawyer Chuchart Kanpai reportedly said Tuesday that his client never admitted to the bombing. "Defendant number one [Bilal] is not going back on his word," Chuchart said, adding that he had asked the court to look into Bilal’s allegations that he was tortured in custody.
The court said Tuesday that it set April 20-22 for hearing to examine the evidence. No group has claimed responsibility of the attack. Police have issued arrest warrants for 17 people in connection with the Aug. 17, 2015, attack. Fifteen of those are still at large.