AFP
Last updated: 2 July, 2013

Swedish citizen denies Hezbollah link in Thai court

A Swedish citizen of Lebanese origin on Tuesday denied links to the Hezbollah movement during his trial on charges of breaking Thailand’s weapons laws.

Atris Hussein, 48, was arrested in Bangkok in January last year and police later found chemicals that can be used to make a bomb at an address he rented.

According to the charges, Hussein and some unidentified accomplices had packed more than six tons of ammonium nitrate into bags.

Thai police have said they were told by Israeli authorities that Atris may have had connections to Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite Muslim group that is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Washington.

Giving testimony for the first time, Atris — who was granted Swedish citizenship after claiming asylum — denied the charges and links to Hezbollah.

“I know Hezbollah in general,” he told a court.

“But I don’t have any relation — either directly or indirectly — with the group,” he said, adding the movement is widely known in Lebanon and is part of the government.

He had regularly travelled to Thailand to source goods to export to Lebanon, the court was told, but was stopped on his last trip at Bangkok’s main airport and taken into custody.

“The next day, they began to question me about where I planned to plant a bomb and who had sent me to do it. I told them I had no bombs,” he said.

Ammonium nitrate is commonly used in agriculture, but mixed with other substances can make a bomb. Its possession requires a permit in Thailand.

Before Atris’s arrest, the United States had warned of a “serious” threat of a terrorist attack on tourist areas in Bangkok.

In a separate trial two Iranians are currently in court for suspected involvement in a botched bomb plot against Israeli diplomats in Bangkok in February 2012.