Rohingya Vision

Eight years for Rohingya leaders is injustice, says lawyer


Eight years for Rohingya leaders is injustice, says lawyer
March 17
02:27 2015

The recent re-sentencing of three prominent  Rohingya  community leaders in Arakan State and the ongoing detention of two others points to the uneven application of the rule of law in the restive region, their lawyer claims.

The trio – Ba Tha, Kyaw Myint, and Kyaw Myint’s son, Hla Myint – were sentenced by  Akyab’s (Sittwe) Appellate Court to eight years in prison on 27 February for their alleged role in inciting violence against government officials, and remanded into custody on 8 March.

Their sentencing stems from an incident that occurred in April 2013, when a delegation visited the Rohingya village of Thet Kay Pyin near the state capital of Akyab (Sittwe) to forcibly register its inhabitants as “Bengalis.” Another Rohingya community leader, Kyaw Khin, was sentenced in absentia to five years in prison on the same day and is currently in hiding, according to a statement issued by Thailand-based watchdog Fortify Rights.

The officials’ arrival at Thet Kay Pyin, on 26 April 2013, prompted a group of some 200 villagers to demonstrate against the registration process, spearheaded by Burma’s Ministry of Immigration and Population as part of a contentious “citizenship verification” process that was paused in February 2015.

The Burmese government does not recognise the Rohingya as one of the country’s 135 “national races”, and most Rohingya reject their forced  classification as “Bengali”. The trio were sentenced to one and a half years in prison in May 2013, but were released as part of a presidential amnesty in October 2014.

At Thet Kay Pyin, the villagers defiantly chanted, “Rohingya! Rohingya! Rohingya!” in protest, and the demonstration turned violent. Although the circumstances under which violence broke out remain disputed, government officials allegedly sustained injuries after coming under attack by incensed villagers.

Two other individuals charged by the authorities in May 2013 – Suleyman Begum and Muhammad Hashim –remain in prison after being sentenced to three and a half years on fake charges relating to robbery, intimidation and disturbing civil servants. On 27 February, five additional years were added to their sentences.

According to Hla Myo Myint, a Rangoon-based lawyer representing the Thet Kay Pyin prisoners, the re-sentencing of the three community leaders was prompted by allegations that they abetted the rioters by compelling them to reject registration as Bengali, a charge the trio deny.

“There’s no rule of law. It’s all bias of race in conflicts,” Hla Myo Myint told DVB. He claims that the evidence presented by the prosecution was accepted blindly by the court, and relied heavily on the testimony of one policeman, which he classified as “tainted.”

The eight-year sentence was passed down after the defendants were found guilty of violating three sections of Burma’s Penal Code:  147, 333, and 395, for rioting, causing “grievous injury” to a public servant, and “dacoity,” or banditry, respectively.

Hla Myo Myint feels that his clients were arbitrarily singled out due to their prominence in the community.Bias by the Rakhine extremists judges overseeing the cases – who many feel are likely to be prejudiced against Rohingya plaintiffs

He intends to bring the Thet Kay Pyin prisoners’ case to Burma’s supreme court in Naypyidaw, but it remains to be seen if the case will be re-opened. As far as he is concerned, however, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be. “I have good legal grounds for revision,” he said.

Note:Changes have been made,DVB is not responsible for these.




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