Yangon Court May Resume Murder Trial After Family Withdraws Case

By Zue Zue 30 August 2018

YANGON — The Yangon High Court on Wednesday heard the arguments of two sides regarding a proposal to review the murder of a Facebook comedian, following the withdrawal of the case.

Aung Yell Htwe, who became popular for a series of short comedy videos he posted to his Facebook account starting in 2016, died after being kicked and beaten by a group of men while attending a party last New Year’s Eve in Yangon’s Thingangyun Township.

Three men were arrested in connection with the murder but after nearly six months of proceedings, the detained murder suspects were released on July 25 before any charges could be brought against them, after the Yangon Eastern District Court accepted an appeal from the victim’s family asking to settle the case.

The public prosecutor asked the high court to review the case, arguing that the withdrawal of the case disrupts law and order, as the case is already in the spotlight.

Eight more prosecution witnesses had yet to testify when the case was dropped and the Union Attorney General’s Office also asked to resume the trial, the public prosecutor said.

The court heard from 14 of 22 witnesses for the plaintiff. The lawyers pointed out that the court had yet to call key witnesses in the case including a forensic pathologist and police investigators, and CCTV records were not produced.

Following the intervention of state leaders and with public criticism mounting over the dropping of the case, the Union Attorney General’s Office ordered the Yangon Region attorney general to annul the court’s decision to dismiss the case and to resume the trial on July 30.

On the same day, the Yangon Region Attorney General U Han Htoo, who had approved the request of the victim’s family to drop the case, addressed the High Court to seek a review of the court’s decision.

Lawyers of the accused Than Htut Aung (a.k.a Thar Gyi), Pyae Phyo Aung (a.k.a Aung Lay) and Kyaw Zaw Han (a.k.a Kyaw Zaw) made counter-arguments, asking the high court not to resume the trial.

Defense lawyer U Chit Ko Ko attempted to rebut the arguments of the public prosecutor, asking the court if the decision should be reversed just because the case has attracted public attention.

Aung Yell Htwe was a Facebook celebrity and it is not strange that his case attracted public attention, he said.

He asked whether disrupting law and order was a strong enough reason to review the case, adding that the judicial sector would be impacted if the court accepted review of the case for baseless reasons.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.