SITTWE, Rakhine State—A juvenile court in Rakhine State’s Mrauk-U Township has released four minors who were sued by the Myanmar military under terrorism charges, citing a lack of evidence.
The court on Tuesday released a minor from Lekka Village and three others from Kyauksepyin Village, according to lawyers acting for them.
“The court released them, as the evidence against them was insufficient to proceed to trial,” lawyer U Aung Sitt Min of the Thazin legal aid team, which is helping the defendants, told The Irrawaddy.
The three minors from Kyauksepyin Village were detained along with 22 other villagers by Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) troops in June last year on suspicion of having ties to the Arakan Army (AA), which is engaged in ongoing fighting with the military in western Myanmar.
The three were sued in the juvenile court in Mrauk-U, and the 22 others at the Sittwe District Court under sections 50(a) and (j) and Section 52(a) of the Counterterrorism Law.
Section 50(a) prescribes a minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum of life imprisonment for, among other actions, “causing fear among the public” or “damaging the security of the public.” Section 50(j) carries life imprisonment for “financing terrorism” and Section 52(a) authorizes a sentence of three to seven years in prison for activities that “knowingly involve a terrorist group.”
Seventeen of the 22 were released in May due to lack of evidence, and five others are still on trial.
The minor from Lekka Village were arrested along with 26 others by the Myanmar military on April 10 last year in their village on suspicion of having ties to the AA a day after the group launched an attack on a temporary military outpost and a police battalion in Mrauk-U.
The villagers denied having ties to the AA and the relatives of the 27 men later claimed they were tortured during military detention.
Three Lekka residents, ages 25, 35 and 41, have since died in military detention. The Myanmar military said one of the deaths was a suicide, one was related to a heart condition and another was drug-related.
Military spokesperson Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy at the time that the military reported the deaths to the relevant police stations in line with procedures and sent the bodies to Sittwe Township Hospital for post-mortem examinations.
However, relatives of the victims said they were not allowed to see the victims’ bodies. The Myanmar military has opened cases against the other villagers from Lekka under the Counterterrorism Law. The villagers are still awaiting trial.
Villagers have fled Lekka Village since the detention of their relatives. Many of the houses in the abandoned village were set ablaze in May in an alleged arson by Myanmar military troops.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko
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