Defence asks for more time in British backpacker murders

national September 24, 2015 14:41

By Reuters

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Koh Samui - Lawyers for two Myanmar migrant workers accused of killing two British tourists on a Thai island appealed for more time on Thursday to prove they were scapegoats innocent of the brutal, high-profile murders.



Hannah Witheridge and David Miller, both in their 20s, werebeaten to death a year ago on the southern holiday island of KohTao, causing outrage in Britain. Witheridge was also raped, apost-mortem examination showed.

Lawyers are trying to convince the judge that Zaw Lin andWin Zaw Htun were framed by police under pressure to solve acase that has caught international attention and hurt Thailand'simage as a tourism haven.

The defence tentatively had until Friday to wrap up itscase, but chief lawyer Nakhon Chomphupat said there wereproblems convincing witnesses to testify as some fearedretribution.
"I don't think we can have all of the witnesses (beforeFriday)," he told reporters outside the court on Samui island.
"There's a problem, our informers lack courage to stand aswitnesses because some of them still work on Koh Tao."
Central to the defence is disproving what it sees as apatchy investigation marred by disputed forensics, acontaminated crime scene and selective use of surveillance videoto implicate the accused.
A human rights expert was due to testify on Thursday abouthis own investigation, which lawyers said showed the suspectshad suffered police abuse under interrogation. Another witness,a former lawyer, was expected to testify that false confessionswere forced from the suspects.
Police have stood by their probe and Prime Minister PrayuthChan-ocha has ruled out foul play.
Allegations of torture and police misconduct have caused astir in Britain and its Prime Minister David Cameron raisedconcerns during a meeting with Prayuth, who agreed to allowLondon police to carry out their own internal investigation.
They have refused to disclose their final report to anyoneother than the victims' families, as a pre-agreed condition.
Many people from Myanmar, known also as Burma, work on theThai holiday islands of Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui, justa short trip from southern Myanmar across a narrow mainlandpeninsular.
The estimated 2.5 million Myanmar workers in Thailandprovide vital remittances. Many complain they suffermaltreatment, including extortion, from Thai police.

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