Myanmar Junta Detains Pro Bono Lawyer Representing Kachin Protesters

By The Irrawaddy 4 June 2021

Junta police detained a pro-bono lawyer working for political activists in Kachin State’s capital Myitkyina on Wednesday.

Junta forces waiting to disperse anti-regime protesters in Myitkyina in March. / CJ

U Thet Tun Oo had been voluntarily helping civilians detained and charged by the military regime under Article 505 (a) of the Penal Code for incitement.

The lawyer was detained at a court hearing inside Myitkyina Prison.

“He was waiting for another case at the prison court when the police took him away for ‘questioning’. We have lost contact with him since,” said one of his colleagues.

The lawyer is reportedly being held at Myitkyina’s police station and is not allowed to meet his relatives.

“We don’t yet know if he will be charged. Some say he will be charged with incitement. He has not committed any crime and he was only helping those charged under 505,” said the colleague.

U Thet Tun Oo, who is also a central executive committee member of the Independent Lawyers’ Association of Myanmar, has reportedly been acting for free for over 120 detainees since the coup, including National League for Democracy Kachin State ministers, and protesters and reporters detained while covering protests in Myitkyina and Waingmaw townships.

Junta forces waiting for anti-regime protesters in Myitkyina in March. / CJ

Pro-bono lawyers acting for protesters said they have been threatened and pressured by the regime.

“We have been threatened and asked by the military council if we oppose it because we are acting for those who defy the military. From a legal perspective, we are impartial,” said another Kachin pro-bono lawyer.

Lawyers said they are not allowed to meet their clients in private or talk freely to the media about the trials.

A Yangon-based lawyer acting for those charged under Article 505(a) said: “There is heavy pressure. I received a death threat over the phone last month.

“I am worried for my family but I will continue to work for my clients,” she told The Irrawaddy.

The regime arrested lawyer U Thein Hlaing Tun, who was acting for ousted NLD Naypyitaw Council chairman Dr. Myo Aung, after a court hearing in Naypyitaw on May 24. A case was reportedly opened against U Thein Hlaing Tun in Dagon Seikkan Township in Yangon for incitement.

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