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Policemen acquitted over abduction, killing of Saudi businessman in 1990

A KEY DEFENDANT in the high-profile abduction and murder trial of missing Saudi Arabian businessman Mohammad al-Ruwaili said it was now clear that he was innocent after a trial against him and four other active and retired police officers ended with their acquittal yesterday.

The defendant, retired police inspector general Lt General Somkid Bunthanom, said he had plenty to say about the 24-year-old case but would remain silent as the case had been a complicated matter and had strained bilateral relations.

He also said he was not allowed to provide a post-acquittal statement under a restrictive Criminal Court ruling.

Somkid and the other four defendants were acquitted after the court cited insufficient evidence.

The other defendants were Pol Colonel Sorrarak Joosanit (now chief of Sob Moei police in Mae Hong Son), Pol Colonel Praphas Piyamongkhol (now chief of Nam Khun police in Ubon Ratchathani), Pol Lt Colonel Suradej Udomdee (retired) and Pol Sgt Major Prasong Thorrang (retired).

The court ruled that the case should be dismissed because the evidence presented by the prosecutors was either inadequate, circumstantial, suspicious or appeared to be based on false evidence. Key allegations centred on a man who took al-Ruwaili to a love motel on the orders of the five defendants and a ring which a non-defendant policeman said was owned by al-Ruwaili and given to him by one of the five defendants.

The ring, produced by Pol Lt Colonel Suwittchai Kaewphaluek, was allegedly retrieved from a steel barrel used to burn al-Ruwaili's body at a ranch in Chon Buri.

The defendants had been charged with abduction and premeditated murder, with extra intent to cover their crimes and escape legal punishment.

They were charged with violating four offences under the Criminal Code.

It was alleged they kidnapped al-Ruwaili on February 12, 1990, and murdered him on February 15 because they believed he had something to do, or had knowledge of, the murders of three Saudi diplomats in Thailand a year earlier.

The five defendants were initially indicted for allegedly kidnapping al-Ruwaili at the Chim Phlee love motel, but the subsequent prosecution was dropped.

The trial occurred after the non-defendant policeman, Lt-Colonel Suwittchai, came forward with the ring in 2003, with police reinvestigating the case.

Reasons for the acquittal

1) Pol Lt-General Chalor Kedthes - who was found guilty of kidnapping and killing the wife and son of a jewellery trader in relation with the scandalous Saudi Arabia jewellery theft - gave testimony based on hearsay. It was discounted as unconvincing testimony.

2) Pol Lt-Colonel Suwittchai Kaewphaluek's producing the ring was seen as suspicious and he failed to inform superiors about it. Instead he told Chalor, who was not part of the investigation.

3) Relatives of al-Ruwaili did not give testimony about the ring.

4) The photo of the ring seen at an Islamic ritual and later presented during the trial was viewed as suspicious, as there was no evidence stating that relatives of al-Ruwaili were present at the event. The ring was viewed as fabricated new evidence designed to instigate the trial.

5) The driver who took al-Ruwaili to the Chim Phlee hotel did not testify, and no one testified that they witnessed al-Ruwaili travelling to the love hotel or saw the five defendants there.


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