Nationalist monks renew protests demanding Wirathu be allowed to attend court in person

Monks from the Patriotic Myanmar Monks’ Union were among 30 people who protested in front of the Yangon Western District Court on Tuesday calling for the extremist monk Wirathu and others to be allowed to attend court in person.

The new system of trying people via videolink, brought in late last year to prevent the spread of Covid-19, is an abuse of defendants’ human rights, the protestors said. 

Wirathu, a firebrand known for his anti-Muslim sermons, was hit with a sedition lawsuit in May 2019 after he gave a speech near Yangon’s Mahabandoola park attacking State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. 

He went into hiding but turned himself in in November, shortly before the general election. 

The protestors assembled outside the court as one of Wirathu’s online hearings was in progress. The judge scheduled another hearing in two weeks.

Tuesday’s demo was the latest of several by Wirathu supporters against the new Covid-19 regulations. 

Earlier this month four people including two monks were arrested after protestors scuffled with police outside Insein prison, where Wirathu is being held. Others have been fined for holding an unauthorised protest outside the district court on January 12. 

Tayza Wun Tha, a central executive committee member for the Patriotic Myanmar Monks’ Union, said Tuesday’s protest had the blessing of the authorities and that demonstrations during future hearings would also be done legally. 

The demonstrations would continue until Wirathu and other prisoners are allowed to appear in person in court, he said. 

The monks behind the recent protests are from the same group that held prayer ceremonies for Wirathu while he was in hiding.  

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