Htin Lin Oo’s Appeal Rejected in Religious Offense Case

By Zarni Mann 2 July 2015

The Monywa District court rejected an appeal on Monday against the two year sentence handed down to columnist and former National League for Democracy (NLD) member Htin Lin Oo for offending religious feeling, according to his lawyer.

“The district court said the appeal could not be heard as they should not interfere with the decision of the Chaung-U court,” said lawyer San Tun Aung.

On June 2, the Chaung-U Township court sentenced the former NLD information officer to two years’ imprisonment with hard labor under the Penal Code’s Article 295a, which prohibits “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings.”

Htin Lin Oo is serving his sentence in Monywa Prison where he is due to remain until December 2017.

“We don’t understand why the district court couldn’t interfere with the decision of the township court. We will try to submit an appeal again to the divisional court. We believe the divisional court will accept the appeal if there is rule of law,” said San Tun Aung.

Htin Lin Oo’s sentence stems from a speech he gave at a literary event in Chaung-U Township in October, during which he spoke out against the use of Buddhism in the service of discrimination and ultra-nationalism.

A 10-minute excerpt of the speech was widely shared on social media and attracted the attention of some influential critics, including the Buddhist nationalist Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, also known as Ma Ba Tha, and the Patriotic Buddhist Monks Union.

While around 50 Ma Ba Tha members gathered outside the courthouse for the verdict last month, the township court’s judge determined that Htin Lin Oo’s speech had deliberately defamed the Buddhist religion.

The NLD sought to distance themselves from their colleague, first relieving him of his position then expelling him from the party altogether.