BANGKOK – A key suspect in last month's deadly Bangkok bombing was transferred Monday to police custody after a week of military interrogation, and was asked to acknowledge the charge against him before police and the media.
As cameras recorded in the packed room, police introduced an unusual twist to the routine by asking the suspect whether or not he was guilty of the charge of co-possession of illegal explosives, as stated in his arrest warrant.
The suspect, identified by police as Yusufu Mierili, responded through a translator: "Guilty." Authorities have previously released a variety of spellings of his name, including Mieraili Yusufu and Yusufu Meerailee.
It was not clear whether the apparent confession would carry legal weight in a court. Mierili, who was arrested last Tuesday near the Thai-Cambodia border, has not yet been formally charged.
Police say they found his DNA or fingerprints in two apartments that were raided a week ago by police on the outskirts of Bangkok, including a container of gunpowder. Police say both apartments contained bomb-making materials, and one had more than 200 fake Turkish passports.
The Aug. 17 blast at the Erawan Shrine killed 20 people and injured more than 120 in one of the most devastating acts of violence in Bangkok in decades.
Thai authorities have suggested that at least two of the suspects are possibly Turkish, boosting a theory that the bombing was to avenge Thailand's forced repatriation of more than 100 ethnic Uighurs to China in July. Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gurs) are related to Turks, and Turkey is home to a large Uighur community.
Mierili's nationality has not been confirmed, but police say he was carrying a Chinese passport that indicated he was from the western region of Xinjiang, home to the Turkish-speaking Uighurs.
Police said last week that Mierili was suspected of being a conspirator rather than the bomber, who was seen in security videos placing a knapsack at the open-air shrine and then leaving.
Another suspect, who was arrested Aug. 29 at one of the two apartments police raided, was in possession of a fake Turkish passport when arrested, police say. That man, whom police have identified as Adem Karadak, was transferred to police custody Friday after nearly a week in military custody.
Thai authorities have said they would turn over the two passports to the relevant embassies to confirm their authenticity once forensics testing is completed.
Authorities have so far issued 11 arrest warrants for suspects related to the blast, including two on Monday.
One of Monday's warrants was for a man identified as Abdullah Abdullahman of unknown nationality on charges of conspiracy to possess unauthorized explosives and unauthorized war materials. A police sketch showed a young man with short, brown hair, with a light mustache and beard.
The other warrant issued Monday for the same charges was for "a foreign man" whose name and nationality were unknown. He appeared to have short, dark hair in the blurry picture from security camera footage.