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Child soldier case: verdict next week, says judge

Aung Ko Htwe (blue shirt, finger raised) is escorted into Dagon Seikan township court on 25 February 2018. (PHOTO: DVB)

The seven-month-long trial of former child soldier Aung Ko Htwe drew close to an end today at Dagon Seikan township court with Judge Chit Ko Ko collecting final arguments and saying that he would announce his verdict on 28 March.

Court proceedings were interrupted by defendant Aung Ko Htwe shouting that he refused to accept “a cow judge” and that he does not recognise the judicial system. He had already been handed a six-month sentence for contempt of court for shouting similar remarks at previous hearings.

Ex-child soldier Aung Ko Htwe, now 26, was arrested on 18 August 2017 on charges of “inciting public unrest” after a military chief lodged an official complaint over an interview he gave to Radio Free Asia, detailing his two years of service in the Burmese army as a minor.

Aung Ko Htwe was charged under Section 505 (b), a clause that critics claim is frequently used to suppress opposition.

Article 505 (b) of the Burmese penal code covers the prosecution of anyone “who makes, publishes or circulates any statement, rumor or report with the intent to commit an offence against the state or public tranquility.”

Aung Ko Htwe has consistently refused to testify during the trial, and at one point insisted on withdrawing his own list of defence witnesses.

He faces up to two years in prison if convicted.

Recently, two of his supporters were detained and likewise charged under Article 505(b). Meanwhile, the defendant’s sister and four others have had warrants issued for their arrest.