Death row prisoner Phyo Wei Aung, who was charged with plotting the New Year’s bombings in April 2010, has been freed by a presidential pardon this afternoon, according to his wife Htay Htay.
Prison officials arrived this morning at Insein township hospital where Phyo Wei Aung was being treated for liver cancer and read out the pardon letter, said his wife.
“Insein prison’s chief and officials arrived at [the hospital] and said that he was being released under the Act 401(1) [of the Criminal Procedure Code] and handed him the prison release form,” said Htay Htay.
Phyo Wei Aung is allegedly in the final stages of live cancer and paralysed below the waist.
He was released four days after United Nations’ Human Rights Special Rapporteur Tomas Quintana visited him at the hospital.
His lawyer Kyaw Ho said he is still going to submit an appeal to overturn his charges.
“The [act] 401 means he is being pardoned, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he was considered innocent of the crime [he was accused of]. There is a court hearing appointed for the appeal on [August] 14 and I am supposed to give a statement there,” said his attorney Kyaw Ho.
“It doesn’t matter if he was released or not – we are still to present our case to the court that he didn’t commit the crime.”
A special court inside Insein Prison’s compound sentenced Phyo Wei Aung to death on 8 May this year. He was convicted of several charges including killing the 10 people who died during the bombings in 2010.
Following the ruling, Quintana along with several international human rights organisations criticised Burma’s judiciary.
The Burmese government claims Phyo Wei Aung is a member of the Vigorous Burmese Student Warriors, which stormed the Burmese embassy in Bangkok in 1999 and took 38 hostages.
Three separate grenade attacks hit the X20 pavilion in Rangoon on 15 April 2010 as revellers celebrated the Thingyan festival.
Initially, nine people were arrested in connection with the bombing; however, everyone except for Phyo Wai Aung has been released through amnesties.
Two of the nine who were imprisoned were video journalists Sithu Zeya and Maung Maung Zeya, who were reporting for DVB in the bombing’s wake. Both of the VJs claim to have been tortured by their interrogators, who were trying to force a confession out the journalists while they were incarcerated.
Phyo Wei Aung’s family members made similar claims that he was forced to confess after being tortured.
-This story has been updated since being originally published.