Trial Begins for Men Charged in Prominent NLD Lawyer’s Assassination

By Tin Htet Paing 24 March 2017

RANGOON — Rangoon’s Northern District Court commenced examination of the assassination of prominent lawyer U Ko Ni as the trial began on Friday.

Among multiple offenses the alleged suspects were charged with, the trial opened with illegal arms possession and transportation charges against the gunman and one of the alleged co-perpetrators.

According to the police report, two of the suspects; gunman Kyi Lin and an alleged co-conspirator Aung Win Zaw, are being charged under Article 19(d) and (f) of the country’s 1878 Arms Act, in addition to Article 302 of the Penal Code for homicide.

Defense attorney U Aung Khaing, who represented Aung Win Zaw in court, examined the Mingalardon Township police official Mya Tun Kyaw who submitted the case, regarding the arms offense with which his client is charged.

U Aung Khaing told The Irrawaddy that there was no police report showing that the guns and bullets seized from the shooter Kyi Lin were associated with his client Aung Win Zaw.

Without such a police statement, Aung Win Zaw could not be indicted on charges of illegal arms possession or transportation, according to his attorney.

“Confessions made to the police are invalid in trial. [Suspects] have to make statements in court,” the attorney said.

However, lawyer U Nay La, who represents U Ko Ni’s family, told the media after the court hearing that the Friday trial was just an “initial” examination and that questions from the defense attorney denying Aung Win Zaw’s alleged association with the seized arms were not “effective.”

“Regarding illegal arms offenses, there are still a lot of other witnesses and evidence,” U Nay La said.

As a defense attorney representing suspects who are accused of involvement in a high profile murder, U Aung Khaing said he is only helping the court in finding the truth rather than the suspects.

“No matter which crimes they are accused of committing, we will make a determination according to the law,” he said.

U Aung Khaing will also represent Aung Win Tun, who is being charged under Article 212 of the Penal Code for harboring an offender.

There are around 80 witnesses who will testify, according to the lawyers handling the case. The next court hearing is scheduled for March 31.

Gunman Kyi Lin shot Muslim lawyer U Ko Ni outside Rangoon International Airport on the afternoon of Jan. 29. He also fatally shot an airport taxi driver, U Nay Win, while attempting to flee the scene. Kyi Lin was immediately apprehended at the crime scene.

Authorities have so far named five suspects in the assassination of U Ko Ni; gunman Kyi Lin, alleged co-perpetrators Aung Win Zaw, Aung Win Khaing and Zeya Phyo, and a recently revealed Aung Win Tun, who is accused of harboring a criminal.

Four suspects are currently detained, however, Aung Win Khaing, a former lieutenant colonel in the Burma Army, remains at large and is charged under Article 302 of the Penal Code, but has so far eluded police.

Zeya Phyo, a former military intelligence officer, is also charged Article 302 as well as Article 67 of the Telecommunications Law for the possession of restricted telecommunications equipment and Article 468 of the Penal Code for the forgery of national identity cards.