Monk defends former NLD official on blasphemy charges

Monk defends former NLD official on blasphemy charges

A revered Buddhist monk gave testimony in a Sagaing Division court on Monday, acting as a defence witness for a former information officer for the National League for Democracy (NLD) who stands accused of defamation.

Sayadaw [abbot] Aria Bhivamsa of the Myawaddy Mingyi monastery in Mandalay appeared in Chaung-U court on 27 April, testifying as to the innocence of Htin Lin Oo in the face of blasphemy charges.

Sayadaw Aria Bhiyamsa is well known in Burma as a philanthropist. He runs a non-profit orphanage for children living with HID/AIDS at his monastery.

Htin Linn Oo has been on trial since December after he criticised the hard-line nationalist group Ma-Ba-Tha, or the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, during a public speech on 23 October. He was charged under articles 295(a) and 298 of the Penal Code for defamation of religion and hurting religious feelings, respectively.

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He was subsequently sacked by the NLD when his speech went viral on social media, drawing ire from Buddhist fundamentalists.

Htin Linn Oo on 15 January publicly apologised to around 30 Buddhist monks, who reportedly accepted his apology.

“As a Buddhist, we are obliged to apologise to the monks – regardless of being in the right or wrong – if they feel hurt by our remarks,” said Thein Than Oo, Htin Lin Oo’s lawyer, at the time.

Along with the abbot, two members of the public acting as defence witnesses are expected to give their testimonies on 8 May.

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