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Former Religious Affairs Minister Hsan Hsint was found guilty of sedition and criminal breach of trust on Friday by a district court in Naypyidaw, where he was sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment and a 100,000 kyat fine.
Hsan Hsint’s lawyer Tin Tun said his client was sentenced to three years for criminal breach of trust (Article 409 of the Penal Code) and 10 years plus a 100,000 kyat (US$100) fine for sedition (Article 124(a) of the Penal Code).
The lawyer said the defence team paid the fine immediately after the verdict and that they are planning to appeal the jail sentences at Mandalay Division’s high court next week.
“Right now we are awaiting a court order permitting [Hsan Hsint] to grant power of attorney around Tuesday. We expect to file the appeal in Mandalay [Division’s high court]” said Tin Tun.
After the verdict, Hsan Hsint attempted to tell reporters something as he was being taken away from court by police officers, but he only managed to utter “The judicial and the executive sectors … ” after which he was quickly pulled away from the crowd by his police escorts. Then, as he left scene, Hsan Hsint said that he will fight against the verdict in accordance with the law.
The former religious affairs minister was charged with criminal breach of trust charge for misappropriating public funding, while the sedition charge was for reportedly saying that the military government ruling the country was “fake” and that only the next military government will be real.
Hsan Hsint’s lawyer slammed the verdict as unfair.
“It’s like they are still tying a rope around him, and whether they take it off or not is their decision alone. This is how the courts work, and if you ask me whether I’m happy with the verdict, I would say no,” said Tin Tun.
On Thursday, Burma’s parliamentary speaker Shwe Mann sent a petition to President Thein Sein containing signatures from over 50 MPs which urged the government to exercise leniency on Hsan Hsint.
MP Khin Maung Yi, who collected signatures for the petition, said: “I view U Hsan Hsint, who was just sentenced, as an enthusiastic participant in our country’s reforms. This sentence makes me wonder whether he was purged for his liberal ideas.”
Hsan Hsint was arrested on 19 June, stripped of his position, and accused of mishandling a raid on Mahasantisukha Monastery in Rangoon.
The raid took place on 10 June and resulted in the detention of five monks—including prominent Buddhist leader Uttara—for their alleged involvement in a land dispute. The monks were subsequently disrobed and charged for insulting religion and inciting mutiny, a move widely denounced by the Burmese public and religious leaders.
Shortly after his arrest, allegations emerged that Hsan Hsint had also misused up to US$10,000 in public funds.