'Men in Black’ suspects tortured to confess: lawyer

 
Five suspects, accused of being the ‘Men in Black’, recanted their confessions, and said their confessions were made under duress due to alleged torture and ill-treatment during military detention, according to their lawyer. The police accused them of using illegal weapons during the political violence in April 2010, according to their lawyers.
 
Winyat Chatmontree, a lawyer from Free Thai Legal Aid (FTLA), on Tuesday submitted a complaint to the Office of the Attorney General, requesting a new, free and fair interrogation and asking them to dismiss the case filed by the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) due to the alleged torture.  
 
The suspects are:  
 
- Kittisak Soomsri, 45, a Bangkok native
- Preecha Yooyen, 24, from northern Chiang Mai Province
- Ronnarit Suricha, 33, from northeastern Ubon Ratchathani Province
- Chamnan Pakeechai, 45, from Bangkok
- Punika Chusri, 39, from Bangkok 
 
Their lawyer told Prachatai that Kittisak faced the most severe treatment. He was allegedly beaten, suffocated and threatened. The other three men, Preecha, Ronnarit, and Chamnan, were allegedly suffocated with plastic bags and threatened. The only female suspect, Punika, faced no ill-treatment. 
 
Prachatai last week reported the details of three torture cases after the coup. One of them concerned Kittisak. 
 
Winyat said the suspects have just retracted their statements because they had only just secured legal representation. The five were arrested and detained under martial law. During pre-charge detention, they could not contact their families or lawyers and were allegedly ill-treated. 
 
After they agreed to confess, the military handed them to the police and the police held a press conference, Winyat said. 
 
The police have charged them with possession and use of illegal weapons, and carrying weapons in a public place. After the press briefing, news media reported that they were the “men in black” who were responsible for the death of Col Romklao Thuwatham, killed by explosives during clashes at the red-shirt demonstration on Rajdamnoen Avenue on 10 April 2010. The police later made it clear that they were not involved in the death of Romklao and that their alleged operation was at a different intersection on the same road. The CSD police have filed the case with the public prosecutor. 
 
Winyat also said that since the case is related to political protest, the police and interrogation team do not have authority over the case and it should be handled by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI). He added that suspects should be released on bail until the case is transferred to the DSI.