Suspects in NLD Lawyer’s Killing Will Ask to Review Indictment at Divisional Court

By Tin Htet Paing 9 March 2018

YANGON—The defense lawyers for the four suspects in the killing of prominent lawyer U Ko Ni will present a criminal revision petition to the Yangon Division High Court next week, requesting that the judge reconsider the indictment order issued by the Northern District Court.

U Kyaw Kyaw Htike, the defense lawyer for accused gunman Kyi Lin, told The Irrawaddy after the 48th court hearing for U Ko Ni’s murder trial on Friday that he will present the criminal revision to the divisional court on March 16 on behalf of all of the defendants.

U Ko Ni, a constitutional lawyer and legal adviser to the ruling National League for Democracy party, was gunned down outside Yangon International Airport on Jan. 29 last year. Police detained four suspects in connection with the crime: accused gunman Kyi Lin and three alleged co-conspirators Zeya Phyo, Aung Win Zaw and Aung Win Tun.

After nearly a year of preliminary hearings, the court charged Aung Win Tun under the Penal Code’s Article 212, which prohibits harboring an offender but allowed him to stand trial on bail last month after he deposited 50 million kyats (about US$37,300) for his release from custody. The other three suspects were indicted for premeditated murder, which carries life sentences.

The man accused of masterminding the murder, former Lieutenant-Colonel Aung Win Khaing, remains at large. The court also ordered the confiscation of the fugitive Aung Win Khaing’s movable and immovable property under the Criminal Procedure’s Article 88.

Until this week’s hearings on Thursday and Friday, the court had finished examining 28 out of 40 witnesses who were called to re-testify. Daw Pa Pa Win, the defense lawyer for Zeya Phyo, tried to cross-examine the witnesses to prove that there is not enough evidence showing that her client financed the murder or was involved in planning the murder.

U Khin Maung Htay, one of the lawyers who represents U Ko Ni’s family, in court raised questions over controversial video footage that had been presented by the prosecutor’s side. The footage—similar to a viral video of U Ko Ni’s murder outside the airport but shot from a different place—was never revealed on social media. Reporters were unable to see the video on Friday.

Yangon International Airport’s CCTV control room officers testified that it was not footage obtained by their security cameras when the defense asked about the video. The police had presented the footage to the court since the beginning but the defense had never questioned it before, U Khin Maung Htay said.

“An individual or an organization might have already known about the crime even before Kyi Lin shot U Ko Ni,” he said.

The video was shot from a place where the general public did not have access, according to U Khin Maung Htay. He added that the real question was who had access to such a place, who knew about the killing even before Kyi Lin fired, and why the defense asked about the video just now.

The next hearing will be on March 15.

Tin Htet Paing is a freelance journalist and photographer based in Yangon. She previously worked at The Irrawaddy as a reporter for three years.