Govt Should Overturn 2010 Bombing Sentence, Family Says

By Lawi Weng 6 February 2013

RANGOON — The family of a man accused of carrying out a deadly bombing during the Burmese water festival in 2010 is demanding that the government help overturn his sentence. They allege the recently-deceased convict was framed by the police and tortured into confessing his guilt.

Phyo Wai Aung was sentenced to death in May of last year for his alleged role in a series of bombings that killed at least 10 people and injured around 100 others in April 2010.

He was subsequently released under a presidential pardon on Aug. 3, 2012, but on Jan. 4, Phyo Wai Aung died at home at the age of 33 from liver cancer. Prison authorities had allegedly neglected to treat him until two days after he was sentenced in a closed trial in May 2012.

“My husband has died already, but we will not stop fighting for justice as his rights were violated. This justice will help restore dignity for my family and my children,” said Htay Htay, who has two young children with Phyo Wai Aung.

Her husband asked her shortly before his death to continue to publicly appeal for justice in his case, Htay Htay said during a press conference on Monday.

She claimed he had been framed as a suspect in the 2010 blast, which occurred at a festival event organized by the grandson of former junta leader Than Shwe, who was the supposed target of the explosion.

“My husband became a scapegoat among the suspects, even though he did not do it,” Htay Htay said, adding that she wants the public prosecutor to appeal Phyo Wai Aung’s verdict and reopen his case.

“My brother was extremely badly tortured during his detention” by police, said Htet Wai Aung, adding that court had been complicit in covering up the abuse.

The family said they sent 20 letters to President Thein Sein’s office to seek his support in reopening the investigation but had received no reply.

The Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) investigated Phyo Wai Aung’s case and concluded that he was tortured, illegally detained and forced to confess, while a special court inside Insein Prison accepted fabricated evidence and denied him the right to a defense.

On Jan. 18, AHRC addressed the case in a letter to the chairpersons of four parliamentary commissions, including NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who leads the Lower House’s Rule of Law and Tranquility Committee.

The letter called for “Reopening of the case and having the criminal conviction of Phyo Wai Aung quashed,” providing his family with redress and ”investigating all those officials complicit in the gross human rights abuses that occurred.”

“His passing away does not change the facts of what was done to him over eleven days of torture in police custody after his arrest,” AHRC wrote.