Friday, February 19, 2010

Abbot sentenced to seven years in prison

Thursday, 18 February 2010 20:54 Myint Maung

New Delhi (Mizzima) - The Burmese military junta’s judiciary continued to hand down harsh verdicts, with an abbot, who had assisted Cyclone Nargis victims, being sentenced to seven years in prison yesterday by a special court in session inside the Insein prison precincts.

The Rangoon western district court sentenced Abbot U Gaw Thita from the Rangoon Nga Htat Gyi monastery under the Immigration Act, Foreign Exchange Regulation Act and Unlawful Associations Act.

“Deputy District Judge (3) Tin Htut and law officer (public prosecutor) Daw Khin Po pronounced the judgment from the western district court bench,” an opposition source said.

The monk was arrested from Rangoon Mingaladon airport on August 28 last year after returning from Taiwan. Seven other monks were also arrested along with him on the same day from the airport but they were released after being questioned for a day. Abbot U Gaw Thita was the only one to be prosecuted.

Rangoon based legal advisor Aung Thein told Mizzima that trying a person entering the country with a valid passport and visa under the Immigration Act and Unlawful Associations Act is not in keeping with the law.

“As for charging him under the Foreign Exchange Act, all eight monks had some foreign currency when they entered Burma. One of them testified in court and said he exchanged his foreign currency the next day after being released from a day’s detention for they could not exchange it at the airport as they were arrested. So the trial under the Foreign Exchange Act is contrary to the law as well,” he added.

Three and-a-half months after the monk was arrested, he was produced in court on December 15. The period of judicial custody is counted from that date till the date of the court verdict.

“But the period between the arrest date and the begining of the trial is not taken as judicial custody. So his three months in judicial custody was not taken into account, which is also contrary to the law,” Aung Thein said.

Meanwhile, Burmese-American citizen Aye Min Khaing is being held in Insein prison in solitary confinement for protesting against lack of treatment of prisoners, who had contracted the AIDS virus. But his case is not yet known, a source close to prison officials said.

Leave a Reply