Myanmar Court Allows Appeal of Decision to Drop Lawsuit Against Editor

By Zarni Mann 27 August 2019

MANDALAY—The Mandalay District Court on Monday agreed to hear an appeal against a lower court’s decision to drop a lawsuit against Myanmar Now editor Ko Swe Win, who was accused of defaming a prominent nationalist monk. 

The appeal, submitted by plaintiff Ko Kyaw Myo Shwe on Monday, followed the Maha Aung Myay Township Court’s decision on July 2 to drop the lawsuit against the editor. 

“The court accepted the appeal and will start hearing from [both sides] on Sept. 9,” said U Zaw Weik, a lawyer for the plaintiff.

Nationalist U Kyaw Myo Shwe sued Myanmar Now editor Ko Swe Win on July 30, 2017 under Article 66(d) of the Burma Telecommunication Act for posting comments on Facebook that allegedly defamed ultra-nationalist Buddhist monk U Wirathu.

The lawyer said the township court’s decision was inappropriate, because Ko Swe Win had insulted the monk online and even during an interview with Radio Free Asia (RFA)’s Burmese-language service. 

“For the township court to drop the case, the lawsuit must have been filed incorrectly. But he [Ko Swe Win] has posted [defamatory comments] on Facebook and even gave an interview to RFA. Moreover, the court dropped the case because the plaintiff’s witnesses were not present in court; this is inappropriate, so we’ve submitted an appeal to the district court asking it to review the lawsuit,” the lawyer said. 

“The court should not have dropped the case so easily. It must call the witnesses to the court until they appear,” he said. 

During the original trial, the plaintiff’s witnesses U Wirathu, Ko Kyaw Swar Tun and Badanda Teikaneinya Biwuntha, as well as the investigating officer, Police Lieutenant Kyaw Thu, all failed to appear before the court several times. 

U Wirathu is currently on the run from an arrest warrant. He is wanted by police under the Sedition Law for allegedly spreading hatred against State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the government. Pol Lt Kyaw Thu is also on the run, from a lawsuit under the Anti-Corruption Law. The failure of the two fugitive witnesses to appear in court prompted the court in Maha Aung Myay Township to drop the lawsuit against Ko Swe Win in early July.

Daw Ywat Nu Aung, a lawyer for Ko Swe Win, said she had not received an official notice from the district court, but added she was ready to defend her client. 

“Under the law they [the plaintiff’s legal team] have the right to appeal to the higher court. So, they applied and the court agreed to hear from the lawyers for both sides. I am not worried about this, as the township court’s decision was reached in accordance with the law,” she said. 

“They can submit appeals to several higher courts, and we are ready to follow every step they make,” she said.

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