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THE SUPREME Court has given the benefit of the doubt to all six policemen who had been convicted of killing a 17-year-old suspect during the government’s war on drugs in 2004, reversing the rulings of two lower courts.
The court of first stance had convicted four defendants of collusion in the killing, one defendant for abusing his authority, and acquitted the other. The Appeal Court convicted four defendants of colluding to kill, and two others of abusing their authority.
“I am speechless,” the victim’s aunt, Pikul Promchan, said upon hearing the verdict from the Supreme Court yesterday.
Relatives of the defendants, meanwhile, shed tears of joy.
“There is just one witness in the case and many parts of her testimony are unreliable and raise suspicion,” the highest court said.
‘Defendants maintained innocence’
The court also took into account the fact that all the six defendants had always maintained their innocence.
The defendants worked at the Muang Kalasin Police Station at the time Kiatisak Titboonkrong, a 17-year-old suspected thief, was found dead in a hut in a remote corner of Kalasin province. His relatives insisted they had last seen him at the station.
While police said they had already released Kiatisak to freedom prior to his death, his relatives said the teenager had phoned them for help from the station and voiced fear that police were going to kill him.
In 2004, the Thaksin Shinawatra-led government declared a war on drugs. Critics said the declaration had led to the deaths of many innocents, while several policemen have attributed the killings to drug traffickers silencing witnesses. In Kalasin province alone, more than 10 people died in suspicious circumstances in 2004.
Six policemen from Muang Kalasin Police Station were brought before the court for their alleged role in Kiatisak’s death. They were Pol senior sergeants-major Angkharn Kammoonna, Suttinan Nonting and Pannasilp Uppana, police lieutenants-colonel Sampai Indee and Sumit Nansathit, and Pol Colonel Montri Sriboonleu.
The junior police defendants had been in detention during the court trial, while the senior ones were out on bail.
All of them except Montri attended the Supreme Court’s verdict-reading session yesterday. His guarantor’s Bt1-million bond will be seized.