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Alleged co-conspirator in Ko Ni assassination trial is granted bail

A Yangon court granted bail to Aung Win Tun, left, after the defendant offered assurances that he would appear before the court for all future hearings.

One of the alleged co-conspirators in the assassination of prominent Burmese legal scholar Ko Ni has been released on a bail of 50 million kyats ($37,500).

At a hearing on Thursday, Yangon’s Northern District Court made the decision to grant bail to Aung Win Tun after the defendant offered assurances that he would appear before the court for all future hearings.

Aung Khine, the defendant’s lawyer, urged the court at his last hearing on 16 February to grant Aung Win Tun bail, arguing that the charge brought against him, section 212 of the Penal Code, was a bailable offence. Section 212 covers knowingly harbouring an accused criminal.

Prosecutors in the case had pushed back against last week’s bail appeal, however, saying Aung Win Tun was tied to the broader murder case being brought against three other defendants in custody. If released on bail, they argued, Aung Win Tun could pose a threat to the integrity of the witness pool or other aspects of the case being brought against him and the others.

Aung Win Zaw and Zeyar Phyo are also alleged co-conspirators in the killing of Ko Ni, who was gunned down in broad daylight at Yangon International Airport on 29 January 2017. The accused gunman is Kyi Lin, who was arrested at the airport shortly after the murder, largely thanks to a vigilante cohort that chased him down including 42-year-old Nay Win, who was also shot dead in pursuit of the gunman.

The latter argument against bailing Aung Win Tun was dismissed on Thursday by one of three judges presiding over the trial, who appeared to invoke the judicial principle of a presumption of innocence until proven guilty by characterising the charge brought against the defendant as a mere accusation.

Ye Lwin, a spokesman for the Northern District Court, said that two guarantors had stepped forward to serve as surety in the bail arrangement, and would face financial consequences if Aung Win Tun skipped future hearings or fled.

“The [bail] money will be [forfeited] or their property [the two guarantors’] will be seized if Aung Win Tun fails to attend hearings without reason,” he said.

Aung Win Tun told reporters after Thursday’s hearing that he was very happy about the bail ruling, adding that the decision was in accordance with the law.

Ko Ni was well-known for his efforts to amend Burma’s controversial, military-drafted constitution as a legal adviser for the ruling National League for Democracy party. A fifth suspect in his killing, alleged mastermind Aung Win Khaing, remains at large.

Aung Win Tun, Aung Win Khaing and Aung Win Zaw are brothers. The latter two have served in the military, while the background of the defendant released on bail today is not clear.