Myanmar Junta Using Prison Courts to Try Political Prisoners

By The Irrawaddy 9 April 2021

The military regime has set up temporary courts inside prisons in Yangon, Mandalay, Bago and Ayeyarwady regions to hear the cases of political prisoners.

So far, temporary courts have been set up in Obo Prison in Mandalay, Insein Prison in Yangon, Pyay Prison in Bago and Hinthada and Pathein prisons in Ayeyarwady Region.

“A court was set up inside Hinthada Prison at the end of March to hear political cases. Another court was opened in Pathein Prison on Wednesday. The court consists only of a civilian judge and a law officer,” a source close to the Ayeyarwady Region judicial department told The Irrawaddy.

In Pathein Prison a temporary court has been opened in a hall within the prison compound. People from Pathein, Ngapudaw, Thabaung and Kangyidaunt townships arrested by the junta since the military’s Feb.1 coup will be tried there.

“Only the judge, the law officer, and the defense lawyer are allowed to attend trials inside the prison. Outsiders and even the family members of the accused are not allowed to attend the trials. People who have been detained for allegedly committing political offences will be remanded, tried and sentenced at the court inside the prison,” said the source.

Similar courts have been set up in Insein and Obo prisons since mid-March, according to family members of those detained for allegedly committing political offences.

U Myint Naing, director of the Pathein-based Association of Human Rights Watch and Defense, is one of the people arrested by the military regime. His wife Daw Khin Htet Htet Myo said: “I haven’t been allowed to see my husband since he was arrested. He was not allowed to see a lawyer either. And we are very concerned that he will be tried at a court inside the prison. I would like to call for an open trial at the township court on the grounds of human rights.”

In the immediate aftermath of the coup, the junta prosecuted anti-regime protesters under the Natural Disaster Management Law for violating COVID-19 regulations and Section 188 of the Penal Code for violating curfew orders. But since March, the regime has been filing sedition charges against the protesters under Section 505 of the Penal Code.

The military has detained over 2,800 people between February 1 and April 7 and 38 of them have been sentenced to prison terms, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. Nearly 600 people have been killed by the junta’s security forces in the same period.


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