‘Men in black’ suspects from April 2010 violence deny all charges

Five ‘men in black’ suspects accused of taking part in the deadly political violence on 10 April 2010 denied all charges that the prosecutors filed against them.

Winyat Chatmontree, a lawyer from Free Thai Legal Aid (FTLA), stated on Monday that the five suspects known as the ‘men in black,’ charged with possession of unauthorized and illegal weapons of war, such as M79 grenade launchers, M16s, HK33s and explosive devices during the violent military crackdown on 10 April 2010 against red-shirt protesters, denied all charges filed against them by the prosecutors on Monday.

In September, many media outlets falsely reported that the five were responsible for the death of Col Romklao Thuwatham, killed by explosives during clashes at the red-shirt demonstration on Ratchadamnoen Avenue on 10 April 2010. However, 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 suspects who have been under detention since early September are:  

- Kittisak Soomsri, 45, from Bangkok

- 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

The lawyer for the five also on Monday requested bail for the only female suspect who was not involved in the case, but was merely accused of sitting in the same vehicle as the four other defendants during the incident. However, the court declined the bail request citing flight risk despite the fact that she was not arrested, but voluntarily reported to the police in early September.

At an earlier press conference on 11 September, a few days after their arrests, the five confessed that they were the ‘men in black’. However, roughly a month later, they recanted their confessions and alleged that they were tortured to confess while under detention by the military.

On 14 October, the 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.

The court scheduled the deposition hearing for 16 February 2015.

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‘Men in black’ suspects tortured to confess: lawyer