December 13, 2018
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December 13, 2018
October 12, 2018
The Myanmar authorities must immediately and unconditionally release human rights lawyer Khin Khin Kyaw, who has been convicted of “contempt of court” and sentenced to six months in prison in connection with her role as a defense lawyer, said Amnesty International today. The conviction and imprisonment mark yet another blow for rule of law in Myanmar and sends a worrying message to human rights defenders across the country.
September 17, 2018
U Kyaw Hla Aung, 78, a lawyer and activist, remembers a time when there was no discrimination against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. Just weeks after winning the $1.1 million Aurora Prize, the Rohingya activist spoke by phone from his home in Sittwe, the capital of Myanmar’s Rakhine state — from which more than 700,000 of his countrymen fled in the past year amid brutal state violence.
Kyaw Hla Aung began his career in 1960, as a clerk at the state court in Sittwe. At the time, he says, Rohingya Muslims held high positions in government offices, police departments, and the army. There were Muslim teachers, doctors, judges, and lawyers.
“Starting from 1970s, discrimination has been increasing with every passing day,” said Kyaw Hla Aung. “Now, we cannot see a single Muslim staff in Rakhine state as well as in Central Myanmar.”
As a lawyer, Kyaw Hla Aung took his first case in 1986, when a group of Muslim farmers were arrested, and their land confiscated under state seizure laws. Kyaw Hla Aung wrote an appeal letter, protesting the draconian laws. In retaliation, he himself was arrested under a controversial colonial-era act used to quash dissent.
“The authorities wanted to confiscate agricultural lands [to] construct university buildings and charged me with obstructing the project,” he said.
In prison, Kyaw Hla Aung’s health declined rapidly. Arthritic and prone to gastric disorders, he suffered from the poor conditions in prison while defending his own case for the next two years. Meals consisted of rotting boiled vegetables in a damp and dark cell.
“Every adjournment day was exhausting because prisoners were ferried to court in a van, which held 50 to 60 at a time,” he said. “We were packed into cells with a capacity for 10 people. Toilets were in the same cell without any cover. I had to appear at the court for approximately 100 adjournments in two years.”
Kyaw Hla Aung was eventually released in 1988, and in the following year, with the support of his friends and colleagues, he established the National Democratic Party for Human Rights. His intention was to fight for equal rights for Rohingya, to restore their lost identity through legal means. While he was campaigning for office, a senior general ordered his arrest. The thought of a Rohingya in politics was unpalatable for many.
August 24, 2018
Zeya Phyo, one of the suspects in last year’s assassination of prominent lawyer U Ko Ni, said on Thursday the case against him was based purely on hearsay and false documents.
At a trial hearing yesterday, he said the only evidence in the case was testimony from a “so-called” witness, “false” information presented at a Home Affairs Ministry press conference, along with what he described as fake telephone records.
After U Ko Ni, who was also a legal adviser to the ruling National League for Democracy, was gunned down by Kyi Lin outside Yangon International Airport in January last year, Aung Soe, (a.k.a. Insein Aung Soe) said another suspect, Aung Win Zaw, had tried to hire him to kill a person some seven months before the assassination.
Kyi Lin, Aung Win Zaw, Aung Win Tun and Zeya Phyo have since been arrested and brought to trial, though Aung Win Khaing, who is believed to be the mastermind behind the conspiracy, remains at large. He was last seen in Naypyitaw in February 2017.
Zeya Phyo is charged with aiding and abetting an offender in murder. During the trial on Thursday at Yangon North District Court, he said the case was built solely on the accounts of Aung Soe and the statements of the Home Affairs Ministry.
He said time and again during previous trial hearings that the accounts of Aung Soe are baseless and the information released at the ministry’s press conference was false.
July 23, 2018
Eighteen months after the murder of prominent lawyer U Ko Ni and after 62 pre-trial hearings, a lawyer representing the family of the victim has accused the defence of deliberately delaying proceedings.
U Nay La told reporters outside Yangon’s Northern District Court on Friday that lawyers acting for Ko Ni’s suspected killer and conspirators were delaying the course of justice. Late last month, the defence submitted a list of 50 witnesses.
Ko Ni, a senior legal adviser to the National League for Democracy, was killed outside Yangon International Airport. The rare assassination shocked the country and has not been fully explained, but is believed to have been politically motivated.
On Friday, the second witness for the defence testified; U Aung Win Zaw is one of four defendants in the case and is charged with premeditated murder under 302(1)(b) of the Penal Code. He is alleged to have hired gunman U Kyi Lin, who was detained at the scene, to carry out the killing.
Aung Win Zaw on Friday repudiated allegations by prosecution witness U Aung Soe that in June 2016, six months before the murder, Aung Win Zaw offered him up to K100 million to kill an unnamed “diplomat” in downtown Yangon.
June 29, 2018
The gunman who fatally shot U Ko Ni at Yangon International Airport last January has told Yangon’s Northern District Court that he was “forced” to kill the distinguished lawyer.
U Kyi Lin shot Ko Ni in the head on January 29, 2017, while the senior legal adviser to the National League for Democracy waited for a taxi with his grandson in his arms, in a rare political assassination that shocked the country. He was arrested at the scene after shooting dead taxi driver U Nay Win, who tried to prevent him from escaping.
Kyi Lin testified yesterday that shooting Ko Ni was an act of self-defence as he and his family had been threatened. He did not reveal who was behind the threats.
The motive for Ko Ni’s killing has not been properly explained but is widely seen as being politically motivated.
In his role with the NLD Ko Ni is thought to have been working on reforms that would have stripped the military of some of its considerable powers that are enshrined in the 2008 constitution. He was also a rare outspoken voice for the country’s Muslim population.
June 18, 2018
The Yangon Regional High Court on Monday revised the charges against several of the accused in last year’s assassination of U Ko Ni, a constitutional lawyer and legal adviser to the ruling National League for Democracy.
“This is not a result of outside speculation. I make this ruling based on [my own] judgment,” Yangon high court judge U Aung Naing said before announcing his decision.
The judge dropped charges relating to the importing/exporting and possession of firearms against accused conspirator Aung Win Zaw. He had been charged under Sections 19 (d) and 19 (f) of the 1878 Arms Act.
He will now face charges of conspiracy to commit murder under Section 302.(1) (b) of the Penal Code along with Kyi Lin, who fatally shot U Ko Ni, and taxi driver U Ne Win.
Additionally, the charge against fellow suspect Zeya Phyo was changed from conspiracy to commit murder to aiding and abetting an offender (from Section 302. (1) (b)/34 to 302. (1) (b)/109).