Myanmar Junta Jails NLD Patron for 20 Years for High Treason

By The Irrawaddy 29 October 2021

A junta-controlled court on Friday sentenced U Win Htein, the detained patron of the National League for Democracy, to 20 years in prison for high treason over a press conference where he condemned the Feb. 1 coup.

“He was sentenced to 20 years under Article 124A of the Penal Code by the Dekkhinathiri special court in a Naypyitaw detention cell,” said U Myint Thwin, the lawyer representing the NLD patron.

The Penal Code’s high treason article defines the crime as attempting to “excite disaffection” towards the government or defense services personnel and carries up to 20 years imprisonment.

The lawyer said U Win Htein denied the charges, saying it was his “responsibility as a party leader to inform the public”.

The police were preparing to transfer the 80-year-old to an unspecified prison, said the lawyer.

It is the first most lengthy sentence for an NLD member.

The former military captain was arrested on Feb. 4 at his home in Yangon when he returned from Naypyitaw and taken back to Oketarathiri police station in the capital.

His daughter Chit Su Win Htein said the sentence “is as we expected. It’s not a surprise but it’s sad and outrageous to hear about the ridiculous sentence.”

She urged Myanmar’s people to “hold on” and said the “perpetrators of this injustice will be held accountable”.

The lawyer said the charges relate to a short press briefing where he issued a letter to the public and criticized the coup.

He called it a result of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing’s lust for power.

The overthrow of the democratically elected government meant the commander-in-chief had no intention of returning power, U Win Htein told the press in Naypyitaw on Feb. 1.

He repeated detained State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s message to the public “to fully oppose the military coup” and urged the people to use civil disobedience.

U Win Htein said previous military regimes had left the country impoverished and the current junta would take the country “back to zero”.

Myanmar has descended into turmoil since the February coup and anti-regime violence increases.

By Thursday, junta troops had killed at least 1,219 civilians and arrested around 9,345 people.

U Win Htein spent years in prison after joining the NLD in 1988.

After the 1988 pro-democracy demonstrations, U Win Htein was held in Yangon’s Insein Prison from 1989 until 1995. In 1996 he was sentenced to 14 years on charges of providing misinformation to foreign journalists, eventually being released in 2010.

He won a Lower House seat for Meiktila in Mandalay Region in a 2012 by-election, representing the township until January 2016.

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