Two Iranian men have been convicted by a Thai court for their role in a bomb plot last year that officials believe was an attempt to assassinate Israeli diplomats in Bangkok.
Saeid Moradi, 29, whose legs were blown off when a bomb he attempted to throw at police detonated at his feet, was sentenced to life in prison for carrying explosives as well as for attempted murder. Mohammad Kharzei, 43, was jailed for 15 years for possessing explosives.
The men were detained after a cache of homemade explosives destroyed the roof of their house in an upscale neighbourhood in of the Thai capital on 14 February last year.
Moradi attempted to hail a taxi after fleeing the building, but when the driver refused to stop, he threw a bomb at the vehicle and another at police, injuring himself and five other people.
Kharzei fled to Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport, where he was arrested while trying to board a flight.
The defendants maintained their innocence throughout their trial and insisted that they were unaware of the explosives in their home.
Investigators said the DIY explosives found at their property – which had round, coin-like magnets on them – were similar to the "sticky" bombs that had been used against Israeli embassy targets in India and Georgia the day before the Bangkok explosion.
The attempted bombings in Delhi, Tbilisi and Bangkok followed increasing tensions between Israel, Iran and the west over Tehran's nuclear weapons programme after nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari was killed in the Iranian capital by an explosive device stuck to the window of his car by the passenger of a passing motorcycle Two other people survived a similar attack a few miles away the same morning. Iran claimed it was the work of the Israeli intelligence agency the Mossad and later executed a so-called Israeli spy after he allegedly confessed to receiving training in Tel Aviv.
The resulting attacks against Israeli targets in India, Georgia and Thailand were widely believed to be retaliatory in nature. A Guardian investigation scoured witness statements, police evidence and court documents, and found the bomb plots to be the work of a co-ordinated group of roughly 12 Iranians, with preparations involving reconnaissance missions, house and transport rentals and target surveillance over a period of at least 10 months.
Who orchestrated the attacks remains unclear. Test runs seem to have been carried out as early as April 2011, when five Iranians implicated in the bombings travelled to Thailand and India for reconnaissance. One of them, Leila Rohani, 31, visited Thailand twice in 2012 and rented the Ekkamai house shared by Moradi and Kharzei. Rohani is still at large, having returned to Tehran via Kuala Lumpur.
Another Iranian, Masoud Sedaghatzadeh, 31, believed to be the mastermind behind the international operation, met Moradi and Kharzei in the Thai beach town of Pattaya and was with them when the house in Bangkok exploded. A day later he fled to Malaysia. He is now detained in prison in Kuala Lumpur, appealing against an extradition order to Thailand over his alleged role in the plot.
© The Guardian, 2013