The Irrawaddy

Lawyers Say Filing of Multiple Charges Against Arakanese Pair Is Unlawful

SITTWE — Defense lawyers for an Arakanese lawmaker and an author who were arrested in January in relation to remarks they made at a public talk told the Rakhine State High Court on Wednesday that the filing of multiple charges against their clients was unlawful.

Arakanese lawmaker Dr. Aye Maung and author Wai Han Aung were each charged with defamation, unlawful association and high treason for public remarks in which they expressed support for the ethnic armed group the Arakan Army. The speeches were made at an event in Rathedaung Township to mark the 233rd anniversary of the fall of the Rakhine Dynasty to the Bamar.

At their seventh appearance at the Sittwe District Court and Sittwe Township Court on Wednesday, defense lawyer U Aung Kyaw Sein asked the courts to drop the charges.

“We have an existing law governing the defining of charges. According to that law, although by an act or an omission a person may have violated more than one law, he or she shall be charged under one law only. They have been charged under three laws. This is against the law,” he said.

Defense lawyers also asked that the defendants be tried before only one court. The two were charged at both district and township level courts in Sittwe, which defense lawyers said is tiring for the accused and their families, and wastes their time.

“It is a misuse of the judicial system, so we asked the court to try them in just one court,” U Aung Kyaw Sein told The Irrawaddy.

Sittwe Township Court scheduled a hearing for April 4 to consider their proposal to hold the trial in only one court.

After the court hearing on Wednesday, Dr. Aye Maung told reporters that he welcomed the election of president U Win Myint, saying he trusted him because U Win Myint is himself a former political prisoner and has legal knowledge.

“I’m glad that U Win Myint has become president. I ask him to release all political prisoners. There are many people who were charged under the defamation and unlawful association acts like us. If he can release them all, we will be able to attend the Panglong Peace Conference,” Dr. Aye Maung said.

“It would be best if we can work for national reconciliation together peacefully,” he added.