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Muslim activists’ hearing postponed

By Si Thu Lwin
February 18, 2016

The next hearing for a case involving two Muslim members of an interfaith group has been postponed until February 26, according to an official of the Chan Aye Tharzan Township Court.

Ko Zaw Zaw Latt and Ma Pwint Phyu Latt attend Chan Aye Tharzan Township Court yesterday. Photo: Si Thu Lwin / The Myanmar Times

The court said the postponement was because a new judge had been assigned to the case. The judge wanted to study the previous proceedings before any more take place, officials said yesterday.

Ko Zaw Zaw Latt and Ma Pwint Phyu Latt, two Muslim activists from the interfaith group Thint Myat Lo Thu Myar (Peace Seekers) – founded by a Buddhist monk following the outbreak of communal violence in Meiktila in 2013 – were arrested in July and charged with contacting an unlawful association and violating immigration laws.

The charges stem from a June 2013 trip to Laiza, where they met members of the Kachin Independence Army.

Ko Zaw Zaw Latt later posted photos to Facebook of himself holding a rifle and, two years later, he was arrested following pressure from Buddhist nationalist groups. The day after he was detained he was charged with contacting a blacklisted organisation under article 17 of the Unlawful Associations Act.

“Currently, the judiciary is not just unstable, it’s collapsing. When the elected government takes office, they need to straighten out the judiciary,” Ko Zaw Zaw Latt said at the court.

The case was opened by police Captain Myo Min Hlaing, the head of number 8 police station in Chan Aye Tharzan township, on July 15, 2015.

“I hope the judge will decide [the case] with both heart and brain. The two cases have been under pressure from superiors. I think we have been charged for opposing them [the authorities],” Ma Pwint Phyu Latt said.

According to Ma Pwint Phyu Latt, cases have been opened against another five members of the interfaith group under section 13(1) of the immigration act. She said one member had since been arrested and a warrant was issued for the remaining four activists.

However, members of other activist groups have regularly travelled to Laiza without attracting charges from the authorities.

Thailand-based NGO Fortify Rights, which has followed the case closely, said yesterday that the charges were politically motivated and should be dropped.

“This is yet another case of Myanmar’s law enforcement catering to the religious-nationalist movement. Instead of targeting interfaith activists, the Myanmar authorities should protect them,” said Matthew Smith, the group’s executive director.

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