Min Ko Naing Defiant at Hearing: Lawyer


Friday,September 12,2008

A lawyer for Min Ko Naing, a leading figure from Burma’s nationwide pro-democracy uprising in 1988, said that the detained activist was defiant when he appeared in court at Rangoon’s Insein Prison on Tuesday.

“You can sentence us to a thousand years in prison for our political activities, but we will continue to defend ourselves in accordance with the law. Nobody can hide from justice,” the lawyer quoted Min Ko Naing as saying to the presiding judge.

Nyi Nyi Hlaing, a lawyer for Min Ko Naing and 34 other members of the 88 Generation Students’ Group, said that the defendants were facing a variety of charges related to their involvement in last year’s protests against a drastic fuel price hike by the ruling junta.

The charges include violations of Electronics Act 33A, the Illegal Organizations Act 17/1 and Section 4 of SPDC Law No 5/96, which prohibits actions that “endanger the national convention.”

The accused were also charged with violating Article 130B of the Penal Code, which prohibits libel against friendly foreign powers. The charge stems from the group’s alleged criticism of China and Russia for their role in vetoing a draft UN Security Council resolution o¬n Burma in January 2007.

Nyi Nyi Hlaing told The Irrawaddy that the prosecution also accused Min Ko Naing and his colleagues of speaking with the exiled media. Recorded interviews and other items uploaded to Web sites operated by Burmese exiles were exhibited as evidence.

On Tuesday, the 35 detained former student leaders appeared in the Rangoon East District Court, located in Insein Prison, with their lawyers and family members to hear the charges against them.

According to relatives of the defendants, the 88 Generation Students’ Group requested on August 27 to be permitted to appear in court without handcuffs. They also requested the presence of witnesses during the court hearing, in accordance with international laws. However, only family members were allowed to enter the courtroom.

“The family members could be present and listen to the court proceedings, but [the defendants] were still in handcuffs,” said Aung Thein, another lawyer for the group.

Most of the accused have been in detention since August 21, 2007, when they were arrested for leading a march against sharp increases in the price of fuel and other commodities on August 19.

Many are veterans of Burma’s pro-democracy movement who have spent more than a decade in prison for their political activities.

Besides Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi, other prominent members of the 88 Generation Students’ Group who are now in detention include Htay Win Aung, Min Zeya, Mya Aye and Kyaw Min Yu (also known as Jimmy).

Lawyers for the group expressed doubt that they would receive a fair trial, saying that the authorities had already decided that they were guilty.

“Nobody should predict the outcome of a trial before a verdict has been reached,” said Aung Thein, referring to a press conference given by police chief Brig-Gen Khin Ye, who repeatedly declared that the defendants were guilty of a variety of crimes.

Nine other political activists who were not present at Tuesday’s hearing were also among the accused. They include Tun Myint Aung and Soe Tun, who are still in hiding, and Nilar Thein, who was arrested on Wednesday, and Mar Mar Oo, who was apprehended two weeks ago.


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