4 Sent to Prison for Involvement in Killing of Mandalay Muslim
By Zarni Mann 15 October 2014
MANDALAY — A Mandalay District Court on Tuesday sentenced four men to 10 years’ imprisonment with hard labor for being accomplices to the murder of a Muslim man during an outbreak of inter-communal violence in Burma’s second biggest city in July.
Nyan Htay, Kyaw Zin Htet, Zin Min Tun and Pho Zaw, all men in their 20s, were sentenced by the court as they were present while the murder took place and had encouraged it, said Thazin Swe, a lawyer for two of them men.
“The court said these four were not found guilty for the murder, but said that they were guilty for being presenting at the crime scene. That’s why the court believes they are abetted the murder and sentenced them to 10 years imprisonment with hard labor,” he said.
The four were convicted for the killing of Soe Min Htwe, a Muslim resident of Mandalay, who was making his way to a local mosque for morning prayers around 5 am on July 3, when a Buddhist mob set up on him and beat him to death.
The defendants’ lawyers and the family of the convicted men insist, however, that three of them were not present and are innocent. Thazin Swe said another convicted man, Nyan Htay, was in fact a police informer who had testified that the other three were not at the scene of the killing.
“During the court hearings, Nyan Htay even named some people who were presented at the crime scene. The court heard that Kyaw Zin Htet and the other two were not present there. So we wonder why the court found them guilty and would sentence them like this,” said Thazin Swe, who had helped defend Kyaw Zin Htet and Zin Min Tun.
Lawyer Myint Oo provided counsel to Pho Zaw and Nyan Htay and said the court had made an inexplicable decision by sentencing the police informer, adding that he had been at the scene in order to do his work.
“The presence of Nyan Htay [at the murder scene] is defensible because he is an informer gathering the information he may need to report to the police,” Myint Oo said. “Deciding he is guilty as an accomplice based only on his present is a bit odd. It would be better if the real culprit would get arrested and punished.”
It is unclear if there are any defendants being held in the case on accusations of carrying out the murder.
The four convicts are currently held at Mandalay’s Oh Bo Prison. Their families are preparing to submit an appeal to Mandalay Divisional Court.
Zin Mar Aye, mother of Kyaw Zin Htet, who reportedly broke down after hearing the court verdict, said he had been with her at home during the time of the murder.
“Such a heavy sentence for our son is unfair. My son was with me on that day. He was sleeping and I even scolded him for not helping me as I was preparing meals early around 4 am,” she said.
“I want justice. I will submit an appeal for the release of my son. Since he was not there and has not committed the crime, I believe, justice will be done.”
During the unrest in early July, Mandalay was rocked by anti-Muslim violence that left one Muslim man and a Buddhist man named Tun Tun dead, while 14 people were injured. Since 2012, inter-communal violence between Buddhists and the country’s Muslim minority has recurrently erupted across Burma.
The trial of the murder of Tun Tun is still ongoing at the Mandalay District Court and 11 defendants are being held in relation to his killing.