Junta sentences prominent Myanmar lawyer to 15 years in prison

Prominent Mandalay-based lawyer Ywet Nu Aung was sentenced in a junta-controlled court to 15 years in prison with hard labour on Wednesday after being convicted of violating Myanmar’s counterterrorism law, sources close to her case said. 

She was accused by the military of financing terrorism under Section 50j of the statute. The charge stems from claims made by Myanmar’s regime that a treasurer for a Mandalay-based armed resistance group had confessed to receiving money from Ywet Nu Aung.

The 43-year-old attorney appeared to be in good health at Wednesday’s hearing, the sources close to the court told Myanmar Now.

“After her sentence was announced, she asked everyone to stay well,” one of the individuals said on the condition of anonymity.

Ywet Nu Aung was the defence attorney for former Mandalay Region chief minister Dr Zaw Myint Maung, a National League for Democracy (NLD) official arrested on multiple charges by the military in the wake of the February 2021 coup. 

The junta arrested Ywet Nu Aung in late April after a court hearing in Obo Prison for Zaw Myint Maung’s case. After being initially held at an interrogation centre within Mandalay Palace, she was transferred to Obo in late May. 

According to members of the legal community, the military council justified her detention by claiming that Ywet Nu Aung had been implicated in terrorist activities during testimony given by another Mandalay-based lawyer, Si Thu. He was arrested earlier that month for his alleged involvement in the resistance. 

Si Thu later said that the statements were delivered under duress.

“Si Thu testified in a court hearing [for Ywet Nu Aung] that she did not violate the counterterrorism law, and he said that his previous testimony had been given while he was tortured during interrogation,” another local lawyer told Myanmar Now last month. 

A resident of Chanayethazan Township, Ywet Nu Aung was a member of the NLD’s central executive committee for Mandalay Region. In addition to working on Zaw Myint Maung’s case, she also defended NLD regional deputy chair Win Mya Mya, who was also arrested after the coup. 

She was the lawyer for “Victoria,” a preschool student who was sexually assaulted in Naypyitaw in 2019, in a case that sparked national outrage. 

Another client was Swe Win, the editor-in-chief of Myanmar Now, in a defamation case laid against him by Mandalay-based ultranationalists. Ywet Nu Aung faced threats from the same ultranationalists for her involvement in the case. 

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