Ex-army captain facing ‘T-shirt’ charge

A former army captain who spent nine months in detention in Burma before being released earlier this month faces the prospect of returning to prison, after judges last week tried him on accusations of receiving a t-shirt and key-ring emblazoned with Aung San Suu Kyi’s image whilst in jail.

Nay Myo Zin appeared in court inRangoonon Friday last week to face the charges. Judges said they will pass a verdict on 1 February.

“Given that they are seriously building this case with accounts from prosecution witnesses, police and the [police intelligence], I guess they plan to make sure that I go down,” he told DVB, adding that his lawyer didn’t show up at the hearing.

The 36-year-old, who turned to charity work after he left the army, was arrested in April last year after police discovered documents on his laptop that allegedly defamed the Burmese military. In August he was handed a 10-year sentence, before being released on 13 January as part of a far-reaching amnesty of political prisoners.

In a previous hearing his lawyer, Hla Myo Myint, said the charges were flawed because the said items were not listed as prohibited. Nay Myo Zin was given the items by friends during a brief spell outside of Insein prison in August last year, when he was getting treatment for a broken vertebrae.

If found guilty, he could be sentenced to six months in prison, or face a fine.

His trial last year was mired in accusations that the charges were politically-motivated and brought in a legal arena which experts say lacks independence from the government. His sentencing in August made him the first political prisoner of the new government, which has won plaudits from the international community for its various political reforms.

The Thein Sein administration has doggedly pursued Nay Myo Zin since he gained a profile for his charity work, in which he assisted a blood donation group organised by opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) members.

His mother told DVB last year that he had left the army on his own volition because “he didn’t enjoy it there… He is a morally strong kid who is very devoted to charity work but [has] no involvement in politics”. The decision to leave will have angered the regime, particularly given that he then joined the opposition.

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