Lawyer for Win Htein objects to evidence presented by plaintiff in sedition case

A lawyer for senior National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Win Htein called on a court in Naypyitaw to reject evidence presented against him during his first in-person hearing on Friday.

Defence lawyer Min Min Soe said she objected to the evidence on the grounds that the plaintiff who presented it was not duly appointed by the State Administration Council (SAC), as the regime formed after the February 1 coup calls itself.

“Only the SAC has the authority to assign a plaintiff to file sedition charges against him,” she said, noting that the plaintiff, Ottara District Administration Council chair Aye Lu, was appointed by the Naypyitaw Council.

Ottara District in Naypyitaw is where the NLD’s temporary headquarters are located.

“[The court] questioned the plaintiff who submitted documents as evidence. We filed a motion to suppress the evidence,” Min Min Soe told Myanmar Now after the hearing at the Dekkhina District Court in Naypyitaw on Friday.

Win Htein was arrested in Yangon three days after the coup for giving interviews in which he said that military chief Min Aung Hlaing had acted on personal ambition when seizing power.

The 79-year-old faces up to 20 years in prison for sedition under section 124a of the Penal Code.

He has been held in a Naypyitaw detention centre for the past three months and been denied bail despite having serious health issues. He has also been denied visits from his lawyers.

“The plaintiff testified that [Win Htein] incited hatred, contempt or disaffection against the government in a letter of appeal to the public. But no details were given,” his lawyer said.

The letter she was referring to is believed to be the one written by ousted state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and released by the NLD on the day of the coup. In it, she urged the public to “fully oppose” the military coup and “resoundingly resist” it.

The letter by Suu Kyi, who was taken into custody on the day of the coup, was signed by Win Htein as a guarantee of its authenticity.

Ahead of the hour-long hearing on Friday, Win Htein was permitted to meet with Min Min Soe and another defence lawyer in person for the first time since his arrest.

“Before the hearing, they gave us a space in the court to meet. They brought him in a car and took him in on a wheelchair. The judges were in their rooms, and the guards were nearby. I don’t think they could hear what we were saying,” she said.

During the meeting, which lasted about 45 minutes, they discussed ways to repudiate the military council’s allegations, she said. 

She declined to provide any details of their defence strategy, but added that Win Htein said “he was not afraid of dying, because he has already done what he had to do.”

She said that during the hearing, Win Htein calmly faced the court in his usual manner, laughing and making jokes.

The wheelchair-bound politician, who requires oxygen to help him breathe, suffers from hypertension, diabetes and heart and thyroid diseases.

The next hearing is scheduled for May 28. His lawyers plan to submit arguments regarding their motion to suppress evidence presented by the plaintiff, according to Min Min Soe.  


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