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Burmese migrant workers Wai Phyo, left, and Zaw Lin, center, arrive at the Koh Samui Provincial Court, in Koh Samui, Thailand, on July 8, 2015
Athit Perawongmetha—Reuters

Two Burmese migrant workers sentenced to death for the murder of two British holidaymakers in Thailand were convicted on deeply flawed DNA evidence, lawyers for the two men allege in an appeal submitted Monday.

A team from the Lawyers Council of Thailand is working pro bono for the mothers of alleged killers Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo to appeal the Dec. 24 conviction, which came after a heavily criticized investigation by Thai authorities. Their defenders allege that, as members of a marginalized migrant community, the pair were a convenient scapegoat for Thai police scrambling to identify the perpetrators of the September 2014 rape and murder of Hannah Witheridge, 23, and the murder of David Miller, 24, on the popular vacation island of Koh Tao.

Read More: This Septic Isle: Backpackers, Bloodshed and the Secretive World of Koh Tao

A team of Thai, Burmese, British and Australian lawyers, translators and advisers has compiled a 198-page argument against the conviction and sentencing, which was submitted to an appeals court Monday morning. It alleges that the two Burmese men were not initially given access to lawyers or decent translators, and that they were tortured and coerced with threats into giving confessions, which they later retracted.

The appeal focuses mainly on the DNA evidence relied upon for the conviction, some of which in court was only “referred to in the form of verbal hearsay evidence.” Strikingly, the lawyers say DNA taken from the murder weapon, a hoe, did not match DNA samples of the convicted men.

“The defense insists this evidence, including that allegedly taken from cigarette butts, sperm and saliva is wholly unreliable, inadmissible,” the lawyers said in a press release, “and should not have been considered by the Court in its ruling as it was not collected, tested, analyzed or reported in accordance with internationally accepted forensic standards.”


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