BANGKOK (AP) — Two Iranians arrested after a botched bomb plot that allegedly targeted Israeli diplomats say they're innocent and were stunned to discover explosives stashed in a cabinet in their rented Bangkok home, a lawyer said Friday.
Both men appeared in court Friday, 10 months after the explosives blew apart their home in a residential Bangkok neighborhood on Valentine's Day. The explosion uncovered a plot that Thai authorities say was aimed at Israeli envoys and that Israel says was part of an Iranian-backed network of terror.
Authorities hope the trial, expected to end in March, will help explain who was behind the alleged plot that backfired when the explosives cache accidentally ignited.
Investigators say that bombs found at the home had round, coin-like magnets on them — similar to "sticky" bombs used against Israeli diplomats in foiled attacks a day earlier in India and the former Soviet republic of Georgia.
Defense attorney Kittipong Kiattanapoom told The Associated Press the two Iranians will testify that "they did not have any prior knowledge of the bombs before they discovered them in the house they had rented."
One of the men is 28-year-old Saied Moradi, who fled the home carrying explosives that blew off his legs in another botched blast. He entered the courtroom in a wheelchair.
Moradi, a 28-year-old former soldier, "opened a cabinet in the house and saw four bombs there" and immediately told his two Iranian housemates to run for safety, the lawyer said.
Mohammad Kharzei, 42, was arrested that night at Bangkok's airport trying to board a flight to Iran.
Masoud Sedaghatzadeh, 31, was detained the next day in Malaysia and is currently appealing an extradition order to Thailand.
Moradi claims he was trying to dispose of two of the bombs by throwing them into a nearby canal when he collapsed in exhaustion while running from the home, triggering an explosion that ripped off his legs.
"He denies throwing any of the bombs," Kittipong said.
Witnesses gave a dramatically different account.
A closed circuit video camera installed on the street outside the home showed the three Iranians emerge, one by one. Moradi was the last man out, wearing a black backpack and baseball cap, with blood dripping from his face, holding what looked like portable radios in each hand.
Food vendor Nayaree Ayong told the court he saw Moradi exit his home carrying "black boxes with green wires sticking out."
Another witness, Nayotrum Pratityung, said he followed Moradi and watched as he tried to hail a taxi but then crouched down and placed one of his black boxes in the middle of a two-lane street.
"About 30 seconds later a taxi came by," he told the court. "Then the taxi blew up." The taxi driver was among four people wounded.
Other witnesses at the time said Moradi threw an explosive at a taxi after its driver refused to stop for him.
Next, Moradi turned onto a main road as police began moving in, at which point the Iranian pulled a rectangular-shaped box from his backpack and threw it toward the officers, police said at the time. But Moradi's bomb got caught on something and hit the ground next to him and exploded, instantly shredding both his legs at the knee.
Moradi and Kharzei both face up to 27 years in prison on charges of possession of unlawful explosives and causing explosions that damaged property.
Moradi faces two additional charges, including attempted murder of a policeman, which carries the death penalty.
Associated Press writer Jocelyn Gecker contributed to this report.