Detained Journalists Denied Second Bail Appeal in Unlawful Association Case

By The Irrawaddy 18 August 2017

HSIPAW, Shan State — The second bail appeal for three detained journalists from The Irrawaddy and the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) was rejected by the Hsipaw Township Court judge, with national security being cited as the reason.

Lawi Weng of The Irrawaddy, and U Aye Nai and U Pyae Phone Aung from DVB, have been in custody at Hsipaw Prison in northern Shan State since they were arrested by the army on June 26 on their way back from covering a drug-burning ceremony hosted by the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, a Palaung ethnic armed group. The army accused them of unlawful association with an outlawed organization.

During their fourth trial, the township’s judge U Kyaw Thu Moe said that apart from the national security issue, he was worried that granting bail could prolong the legal process, as the hearings have been going on for a month so far.

“I want to end this case as soon as possible. So far, only two witnesses from the plaintiff’s side have appeared at court. For the purpose of a speedy hearing, the bail request is denied,” he said during the hearing.

Myanmar Army officers Maj Myat Maw Aung and Aung Lin Htet had been summoned to give testimony at Friday’s hearing.

Maj Myat Maw Aung presented a CD with data allegedly copied from the journalists’ cameras and phones to be examined as evidence.

The journalists’ lawyers objected, stating that the evidence was inadmissible and questioning its authenticity.

Aung Lin Htet did not give testimony due to time constraints.

The Hsipaw Township Court judge will decide at next Friday’s hearing whether to accept the new evidence.

U Zeya Hlaing, a Myanmar Press Council member who showed up at the hearing in Hsipaw on Friday, told The Irrawaddy that he felt very bad to see his fellow journalists in handcuffs under a heavy security presence.

“Journalism is not a crime. Why has their bail been denied while some people prowling the city with weapons receive bail? These journalists didn’t have weapons. Our legal system is questionable,” he said.