In Taunggyi, 20 Accused Await Verdict on Terrorism Charges

By Lawi Weng 7 January 2015

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — The district court of the Shan State capital of Taunggyi will next week pass down a verdict 20 Muslims accused of links to terrorism, according to a lawyer representing the defendants.

Khin Moe Moe, a lawyer for 12 of the detained, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that the defendants face sentences of 14-20 years imprisonment under sections of the Emergency Provisions Act related to the possession of weapons and undermining the security of the country.

“The court will have a verdict for them on Jan. 12,” she said. “I tried my best to prove these people are innocent, but I do not know the viewpoint of the court. But then, we do not know how much independence the judge has to decide the case.”

Prosecutors in the case accused the four women and 16 men defending the charges had links to armed insurgent groups. Khin Moe Moe said that evidence of the allegations has not been forthcoming, and neither the name of the insurgent group nor specific times and dates of alleged meetings between the defendants and insurgent groups was presented to the court.

“They agreed with us that when we asked them they could not furnish evidence or prove the charges. If these people had links to armed insurgents they should be able to show documents or weapons to prove this. Therefore, we proposed that these people are innocent at the court,” she said.

The detained men and women, hailing from Taunggyi, Kyaukse and Naypyidaw, were arrested in August at Konhein Township, Shan State, which they had traveled to for a wedding.

The 20 Muslims are all Burmese nationals, and some are even members of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), according to their lawyer.

The accused have been held since their arrest in a Mandalay prison more than 250 kilometers (155 miles) from the courtroom, with their lawyer objecting to their continued detention while the trial is ongoing.

“We have already prepared to go to the High Court to appeal, because conditions are not good for them,” said Khin Moe Moe. “They are innocent.”