Prosecutor, Defendant in U Ko Ni Murder Trial Squabble Over Insult

By Htun Htun 3 August 2018

YANGON — A bitter argument broke out at Yangon’s Northern District Court on Thursday between a prosecutor and a defendant in the murder trial of prominent lawyer and legal adviser to the ruling National League for Democracy U Ko Ni, who was assassinated last year.

The row erupted after prosecutor U Ne La called Kyi Lin, who fatally shot U Ko Ni outside Yangon International Airport in January last year, a “yokel” and the defendants scorned the lawyer, said another prosecutor, U Robert San Aung.

“Police procedure Section 138 allows shackling any dangerous criminal. So we asked the court to shackle [Kyi Lin at the trial]. Then [defendant] Zeya Phyo responded that we spoke nonsense even though we are lawyers,” U Robert San Aung told reporters.

He said they asked for the shackles because security arrangements were not very good at the court.

“I responded because they spoke indiscreetly in violation of the law even though they are lawyers. They still talk irresponsibly even though they are lawyers. I have a record of all the things they said. Sometime in the future I will take legal action against this,” Zeya Phyo told reporters.

At Thursday trial, another defendant, Aung Win Zaw, was cross-examined by U Ne La and Kyi Lin’s lawyer, U Kyaw Kyaw Htike.

“According to questioning based on CCTV records at the [Yangon] airport, it became clear that Aung Win Zaw watched U Ko Ni leaving [the airport]. He left shortly after U Ko Ni got out [of the airport]. This is one of the key findings of the case,” said U Ne La.

Aung Win Zaw also testified that he did not know the whereabouts of his brother Aung Win Khaing, who is believed to be the mastermind behind the assassination. He was last seen in Naypyitaw in February 2017.

U Kyaw Kyaw Htike said he mainly asked why police requested that the court remand Aung Win Zaw only after he had been detained for three days.

“According to police accounts, he was held on remand only after he was detained for three days. I asked who had the authority to keep him in custody for three days. According to the law, no one shall be detained for more than 24 hours,” U Kyaw Kyaw Htike told reporters.

The Yangon Region High Court in June revised the charges against several of the defendants in the case.

The court dropped charges relating to the import, export and possession of firearms against Aung Win Zaw. He is now facing charges of conspiracy to commit murder under Section 302 (1) (b) of the Penal Code along with Kyi Lin, who fatally shot U Ko Ni and taxi driver U Ne Win.

Additionally, the charge against Zeya Phyo was changed from conspiracy to commit murder to aiding and abetting an offender.

Kyi Lin is still facing a murder charge and a firearms charge.

Another defendant, Aung Win Tun, is charged with harboring an offender under Article 212 of the Penal Code. The court granted him bail in March after he deposited 50 million kyats (about $37,300) to secure his release.

Defense lawyers have appealed to the Union Supreme Court to revise the charges. It will deliver a ruling on the appeal on Aug. 22.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.