A former National League for Democracy (NLD) official appeared in court in Sagaing division on 24 December, after being sued for criticising the fundamentalist Buddhist monk-led group Ma-Ba-Tha .
Former NLD information officer and writer, Htin Lin Oo, is being sued by the local immigration chief Tun Khine under instructions from the regional Sangha Mahanayaka [head monk] Committee after he criticised the Ma-Ba-Tha in a public speech in Chaung-U Township on 23 October.
He was subsequently sacked by the NLD when his speech went viral on social media, drawing ire from Buddhist fundamentalists. He is being sued under articles 295(a) and 298 of the Penal Code for religious defamation and hurting religious feelings.
“The plaintiff [Tun Khine] told the court that remarks made by Htin Lin Oo in his speech were deemed defamatory towards the religion,” Htin Lin Oo’s attorney, Thein Than Oo, said after the hearing.
Tun Khine, responding to the defence lawyers’ questioning, insisted the lawsuit against Htin Lin Oo was not politically motivated and had nothing to do with his status as an NLD member.
Htin Lin Oo was denied a request for bail and has been detained in Monywa prison since he was indicted on 17 December. He had pledged to personally apologise to Buddhist monks for his remarks if he was granted bail.
Defence lawyer Thein Than Oo said there was no Ma-Ba-Tha mob in front of the courthouse on Wednesday, unlike the previous hearing on 17 December when the fundamentalists showed up and demanded harsh punishment on Htin Lin Oo. However, a group of Htin Lin Oo’s supporters, including an influential monk from Mandalay, attended the hearing.
“After learning that the Ma-Ba-Tha came to pressure the court in the first hearing, many supporters of U Htin Lin Oo including the Myawaddy [monastery] Sayaadaw Ariawunsa from Mandalay showed up on Wednesday and the Ma-Ba-Tha monks were nowhere to be seen,” Thein Than Oo said.