Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Thai FM will seek pardon for convicted JI plotters: lawyer

Thai FM will seek pardon for convicted JI plotters: lawyer

Thai FM will seek pardon for convicted JI plotters: lawyer

During audience with King Sihamoni, Thai FM Kasit Piromya is expected to seek pardon for two Thai terrorists convicted in 2003

THAI Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya is expected to request a royal pardon today from King Norodom Sihamoni on behalf of two Thai nationals sentenced to life imprisonment for a terrorism plot targeting the US and UK embassies and the Unicef office in Phnom Penh in 2003.

Kao Soupha - the defence lawyer who represented Muhammad Yalaludin Mading, 44, and Abdul Azi Haji Chiming, 40, at their one-day trial in December 2004 - told the Post Sunday that Kasit will make the request during his meeting with the King in Phnom Penh today. The foreign minister was to arrive in the Cambodian capital Sunday night.

"I think it's the best way ... if our Thai partners seek a release from the Cambodian government," Kao Soupha said, adding he did not believe the two convicted men deserved a life sentence.

Minister of Information and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said that royal pardons can only be issued in cases where the convicted has already served two-thirds of a prison term, according to Cambodian law, which is not the case with Yalaludin Mading and Abdul Azi Haji Chiming.

It's the best way … if our Thai partners seek a release from the ... government.

Nevertheless, "the minister of justice [Ang Vong Vathana] will look into the [case] documentation", he said.

Ang Vong Vathana told the Post he is yet to receive any information regarding a possible royal pardon.

Original conviction

The two Thais were originally arrested in May 2003 along with Cambodian Sman Esma El and Egyptian national Esam Mohamid Khadr Ali following an investigation into a bomb plot aimed at Western targets in Phnom Penh. Yalaludin Mading, Abdul Azi Haji Chiming and Sman Esma El were all found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment, along with five additional men in absentia, after it was proven they had links to Jemaah Ismaliyah, a regional Islamic terror network. Esam Mohamid Khadr Ali was acquitted.

Despite pressure by rights groups claiming a miscarriage of justice, a Supreme Court ruling on March 21 last year upheld the life sentences after a five-judge panel maintained the men had links to JI. A key member of the group, known as Hambali, was captured in Thailand in 2003 - the same year the plot in Cambodia was uncovered. He is now held by the US at Guantanamo Bay.

Should Yalaludin Mading and Abdul Azi Haji Chiming be moved back to Thailand, they would then apply for a royal pardon from Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, AFP has quoted their wives as saying.

Repatriation of the two men is not the only sensitive issue up for discussion during the two-day meeting between the Thai and Cambodian governments. A Ministry of Foreign Affairs press release said a meeting between Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and his Thai counterpart will also address continued tensions along the border.