15/08/2020 14:40 BST

Thai King Commutes Death Sentence Of UK Backpackers' Killers

Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, were found dead on a beach on the Thai island of Koh Tao in 2014.

Family handout
Family pictures of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller.

Two men on death row in Thailand for the murders of British backpackers Hannah Witheridge and David Miller have had their sentences commuted to life in prison, their lawyer said. 

The bodies of David, 24, from Jersey and Hannah, 23, from Norfolk were found on a beach on the Thai island of Koh Tao in 2014. They had been bludgeoned to death, and a post-mortem showed that Hannah had been raped. 

Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun from Myanmar, were convicted in a Thai court and sentenced to death in 2015. The verdict was upheld by an appeals court in 2017 and the Supreme Court in August 2019.

The convictions were mired in controversy with supporters of the two men arguing that they had been framed and that they had initially confessed to the crimes under duress.

Myanmar migrant workers Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun leave after a hearing at the Nonthaburi provincial court in Thailand, August 29, 2019.

Their sentences will be reduced to life imprisonment after a royal pardon decree was published on Friday, their lawyer Nakhon Chompuchat told Reuters.

“The two are eligible under a section in the royal pardon decree to get their death sentences reduced to life imprisonment,” Nakhon said.

“They will also have a chance to get their sentences reduced further on good behaviour.”

The decree published on Friday said the royal pardons were granted to commemorate the king’s birthday on July 28 and to “illustrate the king’s clemency”.

It was not immediately clear how many prisoners were eligible for pardons or reduction of sentences under different criteria listed in the decree.