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Lebanese to appear in Thai court on weapons charge

Lebanese to appear in Thai court on weapons charge

A Lebanese man with alleged links to the Hezbollah militant group arrested in Thailand will appear in court Wednesday on charges of breaking weapons control laws, a senior prosecutor said.

Tuesday 20 March 2012, 03:36PM

The suspect, who is also believed to have a Swedish passport, was arrested in Bangkok in January and police later found a large amount of chemicals that could be used to make a bomb at an address he rented.

"Prosecutors agreed to charge him with breaking weapons control laws," Pongniwat Yuthaponboripan, director general of the department of criminal litigation, told AFP Tuesday.

Ammonium nitrate is commonly used in agriculture, but mixed with other substances can make a bomb. Possession of the chemical requires a permit in Thailand.

Pongniwat said police investigators had concluded one charge against him and, depending on the evidence, he could later also be charged with terrorism.

The court will hear his plea on Wednesday.

Thai authorities allege he has links to Hezbollah, an Iranian- and Syrian-backed Muslim Shiite group that is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Washington.

Prior to his arrest, the United States had warned of a "serious" threat of a terrorist attack on tourist areas in Bangkok.

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The country has been further shaken by a string of botched blasts in the capital on February 14 in an alleged plot to kill Israeli diplomats.

Thai police are holding two Iranians, one of whom was badly hurt as he hurled a bomb at police while fleeing.

Another suspect was detained in Malaysia, while arrest warrants have been issued for two more Iranians believed to have left the country.

Israel has blamed Iran over the Bangkok blasts, as well as attacks on Israeli embassy staff in India and Georgia a day earlier.

Thai police have said they believe that Israeli diplomats were the intended target of the botched plot but have yet to produce hard evidence.

The safety scares dealt a new blow to the kingdom's tourism industry, still recovering from the fallout of months of devastating floods last year, as well as several rounds of political unrest in recent years.


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