Three Get Bail in Trial for Myanmar Comedian’s Death

By TUN TUN 24 December 2019

Yangon – In a high-profile murder trial, the suspects in the death of a Yangon-based Facebook comedian are now out on bail nearly two years after they allegedly beat the victim to death.

The Yangon Eastern District Court on Tuesday granted bail at 10 million kyats (US$6,700) each for three suspects in the death of well-known comedian Aung Yell Htwe.

After a yearlong hearing, the Yangon Eastern District Court officially charged the three suspects in January with murder-related charges.

The district court charged Than Htut Aung and Pyae Phyo Aung under Article 302 of the Penal Code for allegedly fatally beating Aung Yell Htwe. The court also charged Kyaw Zaw Han under Article 302 for allegedly aiding and abetting the crime.

The defendants then submitted an appeal to the regional high court, which overruled the verdict after 10 months of hearings.

The Yangon Region High Court on Dec. 13 changed the charges against the three suspects from murder to “voluntarily causing grievous hurt”.

The court ruled that Than Htut Aung and Pyae Phyo Aung would be charged under Article 325 of the Penal Code for voluntarily causing grievous harm to Aung Yell Htwe. Kyaw Zaw Han is still being charged with aiding and abetting the crime.

If convicted, they will face up to seven years in prison while the previous murder charge carried up to 10 years in prison with hard labor.

“I am happy that my son is granted bail,” U Khin Maung Lay, father of Than Htut Aung, told The Irrawaddy.

Aung Yell Htwe was beaten to death by a group of men at a New Year’s Eve party on Dec. 31, 2017. He underwent surgery at Yangon General Hospital but died hours later.

A forensic pathologist from the hospital testified that the comedian died from severe head trauma, including skull fracturing and hemorrhaging of the membrane surrounding the brain, resulting from blows with a hard, blunt object.

The Eastern District Court had previously dropped the case after questioning only 14 witnesses and before hearing testimony from either the pathologist or police or reviewing CCTV records.

President U Win Myint then ordered the case to be re-investigated following a public outcry. Yangon’s Eastern District Court then resumed the trial in October 2018.

In September 2018, Myanmar’s Anti-Corruption Commission filed cases against U Han Htoo, the attorney general for Yangon Region, and five other officials, including a judge, legal officers and a police officer for accepting more than 70 million kyats (nearly US$46,300) to drop the case against the three suspects. U Han Htoo was dismissed from his position and is now on trial along with the five others.

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