Trials open for U Gambira and Htin Kyaw

Aug 21, 2008 (DVB), Prominent monk U Gambira and activist Ko Htin Kyaw, who led demonstrations against commodity price hikes last August, appeared before the district court inside Insein prison yesterday.

U Gambira was arrested in November last year for his role in instigating public protests in September and is now facing 10 charges.

U Gambira's trial began with the cross-examination of the defendant with regard to the charge of violating the electronic communications act, U Gambira's lawyer U Aung Thein said.

The other charges against U Gambira include unlawful assembly and bringing the Sasana into disrepute, as well as violating the Unlawful Associations Act, the Illegal Border Crossing Act and the printing law.

The remaining charges will be heard at township courts outside the prison, in Kamayut, Kyauktada, Dagon, Ahlon and Kyimyintaing, U Aung Thein said.

"We will find out how they are going to allocate the charges on the day of the hearing," U Aung Thein said.

When U Aung Thein was allowed to speak to U Gambira, the monk emphasised the fact that he had been forcibly and unceremoniously disrobed without the appropriate religious procedures.

"If they want to disrobe him, they should do it through his abbot or the Sanghamahanayaka [supreme monks' council]," U Aung Thein said.

"Now they did not do that but just disrobed him and took him to the court [like a layman] and he said this was very damaging for the Sasana," he said.

"He told me to tell the court that it should not happen like that; this matter is the concern of monks."

In Ko Htin Kyaw's case, which is being heard by the same judge, the court heard testimony from the prosecution about the protest in Thingangyun township.

The prosecution is deliberating whether to also bring charges for demonstrating in Rangoon's Pabedan township last year.

Some witnesses in Htin Kyaw's case could not make it to the court and so their testimony was rescheduled for the next day.

Reporting by Aye Nai

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