Court to Decide on Fate of NLD Spokesperson
By Saw Yan Naing 25 June 2012
A court in Naypyidaw is set to decide on Tuesday whether an opposition spokesperson should go to prison for six months for spreading rumors of alleged voter fraud during by-elections held in April.
Nyan Win, the chief spokesperson for the National League for Democracy (NLD), told The Irrawaddy on Monday that he and his lawyers will travel to the Burmese capital tomorrow to attend the hearing, which will be held in Zabuthiri Township.
The lawsuit, filed by Burma’s Union Election Commission (UEC), accuses him of making false allegations of vote rigging in Pubbathiri Township in Naypyidaw, an area regarded as a stronghold of Burma’s former military junta.
He has consistently denied the charges, saying that he merely stated that there had been reports of irregularities.
The charges stem from rumors that spread during the by-elections of ballot sheets in some polling stations being covered with wax to prevent voters from selecting NLD candidates.
The UEC later investigated the claim and found the reports to be inaccurate. Nyan Win was ordered on May 9 to publicly retract statements that were deemed to lend credence to the claims, but he refused to do so, saying that he was not the source of the rumors.
“The UEC asked me to release a statement, but I said it was unnecessary to do so because we merely reported what we heard. If it is not true, we are happy with that, but we are not guilty according to the law,” said Nyan Win, who is also a lawyer.
The claims that some ballots had been tampered with were reported not only by the NLD, but also by
leading dissidents, including members of 88 Generation Students group, and local media.
Under Section 182 Burma’s Penal Code, a public official who provides false information faces a six-month prison term and a fine of 1,000 kyat (US $1.20) if found guilty as charged.
Nyan Win said that if the court doesn’t make a decision on Tuesday, it might set another date for trial. However, if he found guilty, he said he expects to face such punishment.
In parliamentary by-elections on April 1, the NLD won 43 of 44 contested seats. The ruling military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party won just one seat, in a constituency the NLD did not contest.