Monday, August 21, 2017

Court considers fourth bail request in NLD member’s defamation trial

Hoping for better luck on a fourth try, the defence counsel for a jailed National League for Democracy member again applied for bail yesterday, with the Kamaryut Township Court expected to rule on the appeal at the next hearing.

U Myo Yan Naung Thein (centre) arrives at court yesterday. Photo: Zaw Zaw Htwe / The Myanmar TimesU Myo Yan Naung Thein (centre) arrives at court yesterday. Photo: Zaw Zaw Htwe / The Myanmar Times

“We have a right to apply for bail again and again,” defence lawyer U Kyaw Hoe told the press yesterday after the court hearing. “It has been over two months that our litigant has been detained. It is like a pre-punishment without knowing clearly if he is innocent or not. He is not someone who would run away if he was granted bail.”

Defendant U Myo Yan Naung Thein, secretary of the National League for Democracy’s Central Committee for Research and Strategy Studies, is facing charges under section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law for allegedly defaming Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. The case relates to a Facebook post by the NLD member which criticised the Tatmadaw chief and some officials from the Home Affairs Ministry for handling the counter-insurgency campaign in northern Rakhine State.

The defence lawyer has now applied for bail four times, arguing that his client is a “gentleman” who would continue to appear for trial, and is also facing financial grievances as his business suffer while he is detained.

The complainant’s lawyer has objected to the bail request on the grounds that only defendants who are women, elderly, seriously ill or under 16 should be granted bail under legal act 4971.

But according to the defence lawyer, that statute only comes into effect for defendants facing criminal cases where a life sentence or death penalty could apply. The judge agreed to consider the bail application further until the next hearing.

At the January 10 trial, the court heard from a civilian witness and from a police officer from the Hlaing township station, where the case was filed.

Deputy Colonel Lin Htun, director general of the Tatmadaw’s Yangon Cantonment Area, filed the defamation case at the Hlaing Police Station on October 31, 2016. The NLD member was arrested on November 3.

Senior NLD officials have said the party will stand in support of U Myo Yan Naung Thein, but have stopped short of criticising the case.

U Myo Yan Naung Thein’s next hearing is scheduled for January 17.

Read more: Memo to Myanmar's leaders: Thick skins, not defamation suits, further free speech