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A man arrested by Burmese police after photographing the deadly Rangoon bombings in April appeared in court on Tuesday on two charges of breaching immigration laws and alliances with ‘unlawful’ groups.
Details of the charges are unclear, but judges reportedly claimed that Sithu Zeya, who along with his father was arrested shortly after the 15 April attacks which killed nine people, had crossed into Burma illegally. His Rangoon-based legal advisor, Aung Thein, said that he had been charged under the Unlawful Associations Act and the Immigration Act.
“Just taking photos of the bombing is not a good enough reason for the prosecution,” said Aung Thein. “However, throughout the interrogation, [the authorities] found other reasons and used the Unlawful Association Act instead.
“There are many cases of people being charged after interrogation under different laws than the ones initially planned by the authorities,” he added.
The trial is due to formally begin on 4 June; he is being prosecuted by the Burmese government’s Special Intelligence Department.
His father, Maung Maung Zeya, meanwhile appeared in court on 31 May where his remand was extended for another week, his wife and mother of Sithu Zeya said. He is facing charges under the Electronics Acts and the Unlawful Associations Act.
“He is in Bahan court [in Rangoon],” his wife Yee Yee Tint said. “Previously I heard that he was going to be sent to Insein prison. Neither me nor the lawyers understand [the processing by the authorities] – he should have been sent [home] by this time.
“He’s not really okay [in detention]. He is being held with other people of various crimes. But he said he was trying to get along with them and is also giving them moral support for their problems…I gave him some liver medicine.”
Meanwhile, another man arrested in connection with the bombing, engineer Phyo Wei Aung, also had his remand extended on 31 May. Phyo Wei Aung has Hepatitis B and the authorities are yet to respond his family’s request to give him medical assistance.
Another man, named Myo Gyi was arrested on 20 April also in connection with the bombing and is now being charged at Kamaryut township court in Rangoon division.
His brother said however that Myo Gyi was at a religious retreat around the time of the bombings and there was no evidence that he had connection with the incident, arguing instead that he was “being tried…for something he did in the past”.
Myo Gyi, a 27-year-old university graduate, was charged under the Immigration Act and the Unlawful Association Act, along with another youth, Thaw Zin.
Sources closed to Insein prison said that authorities could not find any evidence of a link to the bombings for the other youths, also detained in the prison, and who were now being charged for use of drugs.
Additional reporting by Yee May Aung