Supreme Court to Hear Convicted Ex-Minister’s Corruption Appeal

By Salai Thant Zin 31 March 2015

RANGOON — Burma’s Supreme Court will hear the appeal of former Religious Affairs Minister Hsan Hsint, who was jailed last October for misappropriation of public finances and sedition.

Presently serving out his sentence at Toungoo Prison, Hsan Hsint was sentenced to 13 years in prison by Naypyidaw’s Detkhinathiri District Court for embezzling 7.2 million kyats (US$7000) and breaching Article 124(a) of the Penal Code, which prohibits “attempts to bring hatred or contempt … or disaffection toward [the government].”

An appeal to the Mandalay Division Court was rejected in December. The former minister’s appeal to the Supreme Court in Naypyidaw, filed in February, will be heard in April.

“We pointed out the mistakes in the verdicts for both charges as [the lower level court] referred to the wrong laws in deciding its verdict,” Hsan Myint, the brother of Hsan Hsint who has also acted as the ex-minister’s defense counsel, told The Irrawaddy. “The Supreme Court has accepted the appeal and will announce the date for the hearing. It will be some time in April.”

Hsan Myint said his brother was legally entitled to use the disputed public funds, quoting regulations issued by the Ministry of Religious Affairs which entitled the responsible minister to spend up to 150 million kyats ($145,000) per month for “donations and presentations”.

“The minister, under this title, can donate for religious purposes, for monks and nuns and for pagodas. Under this law, U Hsan Hsint did not use a scrap of state funds for his own personal benefit. The verdict of lower level court is wrong,” he said.

Hsan Hsint’s conviction on sedition charges, accounting for 10 years of his total sentence, was decided on allegations he prompted a local weekly to report the absence of President Thein Sein and other senior cabinet figures from the fifth All Order Meeting of the Sangha. The court found that the ex-minister had misused the journal to promote discord between religious leaders and the government in the case of a land ownership dispute between the state-backed clergy and the Maha Thanti Thukha Monastery in Rangoon.

The former minister is reported to be in good health and is permitted to see his family every 15 days.