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Burma: Prominent lawyer’s assassination due to ‘extreme patriotism’ – Minister

Ko Ni, a prominent member of Burma's Muslim minority and legal adviser for the ruling National League for Democracy, is seen during an interview in Yangon Jan 13, 2016. Picture taken January 13, 2016. Ko ni was shot dead outside the Yangon International Airport on Jan 29, 2017. Pic: Reuters

February 26, 2017

THE assassination of Ko Ni, a prominent legal adviser to the Burma (Myanmar) government was motivated by a personal political grudge and due to a larger military conspiracy, a minister said.

Police and Home Ministry officials said have wrapped up the investigation the Jan 29 shooting of the Muslim lawyer Ko Ni following the arrest of three men.

Investigators are now on the hunt for another suspect who is still at large.

Home Affairs Minister Lt. Gen. Kyaw Swe said although many aspects of the murder case still need investigation,the authorities now believed personal reasons and extreme nationalism led the suspects to murder him, the Associated Press reported.

“When we were investigating, we discovered it was a case of patriotism. This extreme patriotism … killed [U Ko Ni], according to our findings,” the minister said, as quoted by Frontier Myanmar.

Authorities declared the investigation over after the arrest of the fourth suspect — a former Military Intelligence official — earlier this month.

According to Frontier Myanmar, U Zay Yar Phyo, a former military officer, was arrested at a monastery in Yangon’s Tarmwe Township on Feb 3.

U zay is alleged to have planned Ko Ni’s death together with U Aung Win Khine, a former lieutenant-colonel who is still being sought by the authorities.

Police said Zay Yar Phyo is accused of hiring the gunman who killed Ko Ni.

Ko Ni, 65, died on the spot after a gunman shot him at point-blank range outside Yangon International Airport at about 4:30 pm on Jan 29. U Nay Win, 42, attempted to apprehend the assailant, but was fatally shot in the process.

The Burmese police arrested the gunman at the scene. Authorities said 53-year-old suspect is a Burmese national and the motive of the murder remains unknown.

The apparent assassination comes amid heightened tensions in Buddhist-majority Burma. The country’s State Counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi, is under pressure over a heavy-handed security operation in an area of the country’s northwest that is populated mostly by Muslims.

Smith said U Ko Ni was one of Burma’s most prominent Muslim lawyers and a distinguished legal advocate for human rights.

In recent years, his work focused on improving Burma’s justice system and bringing laws in line with human rights standards.

As detailed in a Fortify Rights statement, “U Ko Ni was instrumental in facilitating the repeal the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act and amendments to provisions of the 2012 Ward or Village Tract Administration Law—two laws long used by the authorities to target human rights defenders and minorities.”

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