Former Thai lawmaker acquitted of involvement in raid by Muslim insurgents

A former lawmaker from Thailand's ruling party was acquitted Thursday of involvement in a raid by Muslim insurgents on an army camp last year, officials said. A co-defendant was also acquitted. Najmudeen Umar, a former member of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's Thai Rak Thai (Thai Love Thai) party, and Harif Zogo were charged in July last year with 12 offenses related to the raid in the southern province of Narathiwat in which four soldiers were killed and more than 400 army weapons were seized.

The attack, in January 2004, marked the re-emergence of a Muslim separatist movement in southern Thailand in which more than 1,100 people have since lost their lives. A court official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Criminal Court acquitted the two defendants after a yearlong trial due to a lack of sufficient evidence.

"I am very grateful to the court which granted justice to me. I am innocent and I believed all along that the court will give me justice," Najmudeen, a former lawmaker from Narathiwat, said after emerging from the court with a broad smile.

Scores of Muslims have been arrested and tried over the past 18 months but all cases have ended in acquittals, with the courts saying that prosecutors were unable to present enough evidence to prove the defendants were involved in the insurgency.

A separatist movement was active in the predominantly Muslim provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces in the late 1970s and '80s but largely subsided following a 1987 government amnesty. It re-emerged after Thaksin took power in early 2001. No group has claimed responsibility for the ongoing violence, reports the AP. I.L.

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