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Muslim Terror Suspects Acquitted in Thailand

A Thailand court has acquitted four Muslims accused of plotting terrorist attacks two-years ago. The case was linked to a wave of arrests in several countries of people allegedly linked to a regional group with ties to the al-Qaida terrorist network.

A Bangkok court acquitted the four Thai men, saying there was not enough evidence to prove charges that they plotted to bomb foreign embassies and tourist destinations in the kingdom.

The president of the Lawyers Council of Thailand, Dejudom Krairit, said the prosecution's evidence was circumstantial. "They cannot satisfy the court that these four persons have been involved indirectly or directly to the point of the bomb or whatever plan. There is no concrete evidence, in short," he said.

He said he expects the government to appeal the verdict, which, under Thai law, means the defendants could remain in detention. But said he hoped they would be released on bail.

The four men, including a doctor and a religious teacher, are from Thailand's predominantly Muslim south. They were charged with conspiracy to harm national security and of being members of an unlawful group.

They were arrested in June 2003, after authorities in Singapore and Malaysia detained scores of Muslim men on charges of plotting terrorist attacks in those countries.

Most were accused of belonging to the Jemaah Islaamiyah group, which is reportedly seeking to establish an Islamic state in Southeast Asia. The group has been linked to the al-Qaida network and is accused of a string of terrorist attacks in Southeast Asia.

Mr. Dejudom said, however, that these claims were never substantiated before the Thai court. "There was no concrete evidence or even testimony of any witness to prove the linkage of those claims by the authorities," he said.

The case attracted the attention of human-rights activists when one of the lawyers for the defense, Somchai Neelaphaijit, disappeared mysteriously in March of last year. He is presumed dead, but his body has not been found.