Ousted Mandalay Region chief minister pleads not guilty to incitement charges

A prison court in Mandalay began its examination of detained Mandalay region chief minister Zaw Myint Maung on Monday after he pleaded not guilty to the incitement charge filed against him by the junta, according to a member of his legal defence team.

The military council accused the 70-year-old politician of violating Section 505b of the Penal Code after the central executive committee of his party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), released statements that the junta objected to following the February 1 coup. 

Section 505b previously outlawed “any statement, rumour or report” likely to induce people to “commit an offence against the state,” and carries a two-year prison sentence if convicted. 

NLD vice chair Zaw Myint Maung, who has been detained in Obo Prison since the day of the coup, is facing other charges, including those related to the alleged violation of Section 25 of the Disaster Management Law and Section 55 of the Anti-Corruption Law. 

“For the 505b charge, all the plaintiff’s witnesses had been examined and the court had already indicted him. Dr. Zaw Myint Maung had pleaded not guilty and it has started examining him today,” said a member of his defence team.

“The charge under the disaster management law can’t proceed further at the time being because witnesses couldn’t come to the prison court to testify yet,” the defence team member said.

Lawyers for the former chief minister submitted a witness list of a total of 25 people, including Zaw Myint Maung’s family members and former employees of his office during his tenure.

The military council arrested several cabinet members of the ousted Mandalay regional government, including municipal committee members, and has been holding trials for them either through video conferencing software or at a closed prison court. 

The Section 505b and Disaster Management Law charges against Zaw Myint Maung were filed at the Aungmyethazan Township court for breaking Covid-19 restrictions during last year’s election campaign. Five lawsuits under the Anti-Corruption Law were also filed at the Mandalay Regional High Court, after the military accused him of accepting multiple bribes totalling nearly US$150,000 and of abusing his power to acquire land for the NLD’s office. 

No trial has started for the corruption charges, which carry a sentence of up to 15 years in prison if convicted. 

Zaw Myint Maung, who has leukemia, had been receiving treatment for the disease in Thailand since 2019. He was admitted to a clinic within Mandalay’s Obo Prison in July after his health began to deteriorate after six months in detention. He was transferred to Mandalay General Hospital in August to be treated for Covid-19, then returned to the prison clinic, according to sources close to his family. 

He was reportedly returned to his prison cell on October 4 following his hearing. 

Zaw Myint Maung was elected as a parliamentarian in the 1990 general election, but was barred from taking his seat and subsequently imprisoned by the military regime for 19 years. 

After he was released from prison, he again was elected in the 2012 to represent Kyaukpadaung Township and in the 2015 and 2020 elections representing Amarapura Constituency (1) for the Mandalay Regional parliament. 

The next hearing for the incitement charge is scheduled for October 11, and the court will continue to examine Zaw Myint Maung, according to his defence team. 

Related Articles

Back to top button