US citizen begins trial in Burma

Oct 26, 2009 (DVB), The Burmese-born US citizen currently detained in a Rangoon prison has appeared in court on charges of fraud after allegedly using false identification to enter the country.

Lawyers for Kyaw Zaw Lwin, also known as Nyi Nyi Aung, said that the courtroom on Thursday heard accounts from two witnesses in the prosecution team, a police officer and an immigration official.

They claim that Kyaw Zaw Lwin intended to use a Burmese national's identification card with his photo pasted onto it.

"He entered the country using his American passport, not by using the ID the officials had mentioned," said lawyer Kyi Win. "They only found the ID in his possession after they searched him."

Kyaw Zaw Lwin was arrested upon arrival at Rangoon airport on 3 September, and has since been held at Rangoon's Insein prison.

Shortly after his arrest, state-run media in Burma appeared to link him to a series of bombings that hit Rangoon in mid-September, a fortnight after he was detained.

An article in the New Light of Myanmar newspaper said that he "had contact with" members of the All Burma Student Democratic Front (ABSDF) and Thailand-based Forum for Democracy in Burma (FDB), who in turn were allegedly close to "sabbateurs" involved in the bombing.

The leader of the ABSDF, Than Khe, told DVB however that the allegations were political smearing by the government.

Kyi Win also complained that his client had been held in handcuffs throughout the hearing, in violation of Burmese law.

"According to the police code of conduct, a defendant appearing before the court's judge should be freed from handcuffs," he said, adding that police cited security concerns as a reason to keep them on.

"This clearly violates Article 477 of the court manual and shows that no rule of law exists." His next court hearing is scheduled for 30 October.

Su Su Kyi, the aunt of Kyaw Zaw Lwin, said that his family had received no response following requests to visit him in prison.

"A letter seeking permission to meet with Ko Nyi Nyi Aung has been sent to the authorities via the embassy but no response has been made yet. We will send another letter on Monday," she said.

Su Su Kyi said that US embassy staff who visited Kyaw Zaw Lwin in prison in September said that he had shown signs of torture.

Reporting by Khin Hnin Htet

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