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The Arakanese High Court has yet to announce its decision on whether to uphold an appeal against murder charges levelled at seven men indicted for the 2012 lynching of 10 Muslim pilgrims at a bus station in Taunggup.
The incident is widely seen as one of the main precursors to the communal violence between Buddhist and Muslim communities which erupted across the state two years ago.
Defence lawyers for the seven – who were convicted in May this year under Penal Code articles 302 and 34 by the district court in Sandoway, officially known as Thandwe – launched an appeal on 10 July to the High Court against the formal murder charges.
“I presented an argument at the High Court today [10 July] stating that the charges against my clients are not in conformity with legal procedures, and therefore should be dropped,” lawyer Aye Nu Sein told DVB earlier this month.
At that time, defence lawyers said they expected a decision by the High Court within seven to ten days. However, as weeks have passed, no official announcement has been made on this most sensitive of cases.
Aye Nu Sein, who represents six of the appellants, said she and lawyer Kyaw Nyunt Maung, representing the other defendant, believed Sittwe High Court was taking longer than usual to make a decision on the appeal.
However, Supreme Court lawyer Ko Ni said the delay is nothing unusual, and in some cases, the court may take up to about two months before announcing its verdict.
“It could be that the judge needs more time to thoroughly study the case,” said Ko Ni.
He said if the High Court rejects the appeal, the murder trial will proceed at the district court, but if it accepts the appeal the suspects will be unconditionally discharged.
The seven suspects, all local Taunggup Buddhist men, were arrested one year after the lynching, which involved at least 100 people.
President Thein Sein last year pledged that Burma’s judiciary would take firm action against all individuals and organisations convicted of instigating and committing acts of violence.