Tortured Rakhine villagers handed three-year prison sentences

Five villagers who were tortured aboard a navy boat in Rakhine State more than two years ago have each been sentenced to three years in prison for alleged terrorist activities.

The five prisoners, who were charged in May 2020 under Section 52a of the Counter-Terrorism Law after being arrested on suspicion of having ties to the then-outlawed Arakan Army, were handed the sentences on Wednesday.

Kyaw Nyunt Maung, their lawyer, said that time served would be deducted from their sentences.

“They’ve been in custody for the past two years, two months, and two weeks, so they are due to be released in eight months’ time,” he told Myanmar Now.

Three years is the minimum prison sentence under Section 52a of the Counter-Terrorism Law, which allows for up to seven years behind bars.

The men were also charged under Section 50j of the law for allegedly funding terrorist activities, but were found not guilty.

Three of the detainees—Nyi Nyi Aung, Myo Lin Oo and Maung Chay—are from the village of Kyauk Seik in Ponnagyun Township, where 38 villagers were arrested by the military in April 2020.

The other two were identified as Myo Min Aung, from the town of Ponnagyun, and Kyaw Win Hein, a resident of the village of Zee Pin Gyi in Mrauk-U Township.

Ni Ni Aye, the mother of Nyi Nyi Aung, said she didn’t have any comment to make, as the sentences had already been passed.

“I don’t have anything else to say now that we know what his sentence is, but I heard that they will be released in eight months,” she said.

Videos of the five young men being viciously beaten while in military custody went viral after they were released on social media.

In the videos, soldiers can be seen kicking and punching the tied and blindfolded men aboard a navy boat as they are being transported from Ponnagyun to the state capital Sittwe.

The military later released a statement saying that the incident would be investigated and that it would “take action” against soldiers who conducted unlawful interrogations.

The charges against the five victims were laid by Tint Tun Naing, an army captain from Light Infantry Battalion 550, which is based in Ponnagyun.

Less than a week before the Kyauk Seik villagers were arrested, army shelling killed eight other residents of the village.

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