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A military court has acquitted two Burmese army servicemen who were facing charges relating to the death of freelance journalist Par Gyi.
A press release from the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MHRC) on 8 May announced the release of a lance corporal and a private.
Par Gyi, also known as Aung Kyaw Naing, was killed in military custody in September after being arrested while embedded with the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army. The army said he was shot while trying to escape, but the injuries discovered when his body was finally exhumed after a long campaign by his widow Ma Thandar were not concurrent with that version of events.
A subsequent investigation by MHRC proposed that the case should be heard in a civilian court. However, the military overruled that recommendation, insisting it would instead be heard in a military court as the death occurred during conflict.
Lance-Cpl Kyaw Kyaw Aung and Pvt. Naing Lin Htun acted as guards for Par Gyi and were accused of killing him, though the initial army reaction was to state that Par Gyi had been shot while trying to escape.
The two soldiers were detained under Article 71 of the Military Code (court martial procedures) and Section 304 of the Penal Code (culpable homicide).
The 8 May statement announced that the case, number 146/147, had been carried out according to military judicial procedures, and a verdict had been passed to free the defendants unconditionally. The decision was approved by the Southeast Military Command.
Prosecuting lawyer Robert San Aung said that the military court’s decision is not necessarily reliable.
“I want to see the truth revealed. If the case was to be heard in a civil court, people could observe it. Instead, the case was heard so that people could not observe. We can’t assume that the decision of military court is right without first asking questions of the wife of the victim.”
Robert San Aung said that the decision is disputable under Burma’s Constitution, and it will be rejected in a letter to be sent to the Supreme Court, the constitutional tribunal, the military commander-in-chief and the defence minister.