Judge Mulls Evidence in Trial of Three Journalists

By Kyaw Phyo Tha 25 August 2017

HSIPAW, Shan State—The judge from Hsipaw Township Court will decide next week whether to accept evidence submitted by a military plaintiff in the trial of three detained journalists from The Irrawaddy and Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) under the Unlawful Association Act.

During their fifth trial on Friday, judge U Kyaw Thu Moe said the court needed to check a compact disk submitted last week by Maj. Myat Maw Aung of the 506 Light Infantry Unit in Hsipaw.

The major testified last week that the CD had photos related to the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) copied from the confiscated cameras and phones of the three journalists after their detention.

Lawi Weng of The Irrawaddy, and U Aye Naing and U Pyae Phone Aung from the DVB, have been in custody in northern Shan State’s Hsipaw Prison since they were arrested along with three other men by the Myanmar Army on June 26 as they returned from covering a drug-burning ceremony hosted by the TNLA.

The military accused them of unlawful association with the ethnic armed group, who they classified as an outlawed organization.

The three journalists have been on trial at Hsipaw Township Court for more than a month.

According to Maj. Myat Maw Aung’s testimonial at the court last week, he said the army copied every picture related to the TNLA onto a CD.

“After that, apart from their personal pictures, we deleted [the TNLA pictures] right in front of [the journalists]. We did it according to an instruction from upstairs,” he said.

But the defendants’ lawyers rejected his submission, arguing the CD was merely secondary evidence because the plaintiff could not provide any original pictures.

The judge said on Friday he would not be able to reach a verdict until the contents of the CD were analysed to see whether it relates to the case.

“So we will review the contents at next week’s trial to see whether it is acceptable as evidence,” said U Kyaw Thu Moe.

The defendants’ lawyers also submitted bail appeals on the same day despite two previous failed attempts.

The judge will rule on the third appeal for bail and give the verdict on the acceptance of the CD as evidence on Sep. 1.