Burma

Court to Decide on July 18 Whether Filmmaker Will Be Prosecuted

By Htet Khaung Lin 5 July 2019

YANGON—The court in Yangon’s Insein Township will decide on July 18 whether the prosecution of a well-known filmmaker sued by the military in April can proceed.

At a hearing on Thursday, prosecution and defense lawyers made their final arguments about whether filmmaker U Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi should be prosecuted, defense lawyer U Robert San Aung told the media.

On March 29, Lieutenant-Colonel Lin Tun of the Myanmar military’s Yangon Region Command opened a case against U Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi at Insein Township Police Station under Article 66(d) of the 2013 Telecommunications Law over posts the filmmaker shared on social media deemed defamatory to the military.

The military officer later filed another lawsuit with Insein Township Court against him under Article 505(a) of the Penal Code, which prohibits acts likely to cause members of the military to mutiny or neglect their duties, and for which suspects cannot request bail.

The court has twice denied bail to U Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, the founder of the annual Human Rights, Human Dignity International Film Festival, who recently underwent surgery to have part of his liver removed due to cancer.

“I told the court that there is no official letter from army chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing permitting a lawsuit against [U Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi]. And his posts did not lead to a mutiny in the army or neglect of [soldiers’] duties. So, he did not violate Article 505(a). If he must be prosecuted, it should only be under the Telecommunications Law,” U Robert San Aung told the reporters.

The lawyer earlier said it is against the law to file a lawsuit against a person under two separate charges for a critical social media post.

The plaintiff presented just five witnesses to the court, all of them military officers. The final witness, Major Aung Ye Kyaw, testified at Thursday’s hearing that in March he read in reports submitted by his subordinates that U Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi’s posts were critical of the military.

Plaintiff Lt-Col. Lin Tun earlier filed lawsuits against research officer U Myo Yan Naung Thein of the National League for Democracy and chief editor U Kyaw Min Swe of The Voice Journal for posts and articles deemed to be defamatory to the military.

U Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, who has been openly critical of the military-drafted 2008 Constitution and the military’s role in politics, has been in detention for nearly three months in Insein Prison.

If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of two years in prison under the Telecommunications Law, and the same term under Article 505(a).

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