Myanmar Junta Indicts NLD Patron U Win Htein for Sedition

By The Irrawaddy 17 July 2021

Leading National League for Democracy (NLD) member U Win Htein was indicted for sedition by a court inside a Naypyitaw detention cell on Friday for a remark he made following the Feb. 1 coup.

Prosecution witnesses testified on the remarks that U Win Htein made in early February in a video report and a letter to the public, according to Daw Min Min Soe, the lawyer representing the NLD patron.

The 80-year-old was arrested on the night of Feb. 4 at his home in Yangon upon his return from Naypyitaw and immediately taken back to the capital’s Oattara Thiri police station.

He was ordered to stand trial for sedition under Article 124(a) of the Penal Code in May.

Article 124(a) criminalizes sedition, defined as attempting to “excite disaffection against the government”. The charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Shortly after the military seized power on Feb. 1, U Win Htein, a former military captain-turned-politician, condemned the coup as the result of military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing’s personal lust for power.

The fact that Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing overthrew the democratically elected government and arrested President U Win Myint and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi means he has no intention of returning Myanmar to democracy, U Win Htein told the press in Naypyitaw on Feb. 1.

He also repeated detained leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s message to the public “to fully oppose the military coup” and urged the people to object to military rule through civil disobedience.

Pointing out that previous coups had impoverished the country, U Win Htein said at the time that the latest coup would take the country “back to zero”.

He has denied his guilt at hearings held every Friday.

Daw Min Min Soe told The Irrawaddy, “He told the court that he said what he needed to say because he believed it was his responsibility as a patron of the ruling party to act based on the political situation at that time.”

The lawyer said U Win Htein currently seems healthy and has a strong spirit.

The defense will be heard by the court on July 30, as the regime has declared next week a weeklong public holiday to curb rising COVID-19 cases.

After six months of military rule, the country’s economy has tanked and the healthcare sector has collapsed amid a third wave of COVID-19 infections and strikes by healthcare workers.

In addition to the more than 900 people killed by junta forces during brutal crackdowns against peaceful anti-regime protesters, the death toll from COVID-19 has risen rapidly this month due to a lack of medical oxygen. Bodies of suspected COVID-19 patients have been piling up at crematoriums in Yangon and elsewhere, according to charity groups.

On Friday, a Naypyitaw court announced the postponements of next week’s hearings in Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s trials from July 20 and 22 to July 26 and 27.

The State Counselor is being tried on six charges including illegal possession of walkie-talkies, incitement and violating COVID-19 restrictions and the Official Secrets Act. Hearings in four more cases under the Corruption Law, which were due to be filed in Mandalay Region’s High Court on July 22, have been postponed to July 30.

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