Activist Hit With Additional Sentence, Totaling Over 13 Years
By Nobel Zaw 31 October 2014
RANGOON — Democracy activist Htin Kyaw, who was already sentenced to more than 11 years in jail, was handed an additional sentence of two years for “public mischief” by the Kyauktada Township Court on Thursday.
Htin Kyaw was found guilty of colluding with other leading members of the Movement for Democracy Current Force (MDCF) in the creation and distribution of materials falsely stating that Aung San Suu Kyi and other opposition figures had formed an interim government.
He is already incarcerated in Insein Prison on previous charges related to land rights protests. The new sentence brought his total jail term to 13 years and four months.
The activist’s lawyer, Robert San Aung, told The Irrawaddy that Htin Kyaw could not have been involved in the distribution of the contentious materials because he was in jail on July 7, when the MDCF held a demonstration at Rangoon’s City Hall to circulate the false information.
Htin Kyaw’s colleague Naung Naung led the demonstration and has been charged for inciting unrest and unlawful assembly.
“How can this verdict be true if Htin Kyaaw was in prison when Naung Naung held the demonstration? He was charged as Naung Naung’s accomplice,” said Robert San Aung, who referred to his client as “forever a political prisoner.”
Htin Kyaw’s most recent charge was under the controversial Penal Code Article 505(b), which broadly criminalizes all statements that could “alarm the public” or “whereby any person may be induced to commit an offense against the state.”
Naung Naung faces the same charge and an additional count of violating Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly Law, another law that has often been criticized for its disproportionate use against prominent activists.
Htin Kyaw received the maximum punishment, and his counsel said that he had not yet decided whether he would appeal the ruling, but he would be granted 30 days to decide.
Than Than Maw, Htin Kyaw’s wife, told The Irrawaddy that, “it depends on his decision, but he hasn’t appealed in any other case against him.”
The well-known activist staged a series of protest earlier this year condemning the government’s land policies and demanding settlement on farmers’ claims to property.
He was arrested in May and has since faced charges in 11 different townships across Rangoon. His charges included inciting unrest and protesting without a permit.
Htin Kyaw is yet to face the final charge against him Hlaing Township.
“This case is totally unfair,” his wife said on Friday, a day after the ruling. “This government is behaving just like the old one.”