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Political activist Naw Ohn Hla was on Tuesday charged under Article 296 of the Burmese penal code – for disturbing a religious assembly. The charge supposedly relates to her organising weekly prayer sessions at Shwedagon Pagoda back in 2007 when she led supporters in praying for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, then under house arrest, and other political prisoners in detention.
This is the second charge against her this month following her release from Mandalay prison on 15 November in a presidential amnesty. She had been jailed in August on charges of sedition for protesting against the Latpadaung copper mine.
Following her release in November, Naw Ohn Hla did not take long to hit the headlines again – she was arrested and jailed last week for burning a Chinese flag in front of China’s embassy in Rangoon to mark the first anniversary of the Latpadaung crackdown. She was subsequently arrested and charged again for sedition – under Article 505(b) of the Penal Code.
On Tuesday, Naw Ohn Hla’s lawyer Robert San Aung said the new charge against her, filed by Shwedagon Pagoda Board of Trustees almost seven years after the alleged crime, signifies that the police have failed to perform their duty throughout the period of time which has elapsed.
“Naw Ohn Hla told the court she had not been aware of the charge from 2007 and that she has made no attempt to evade any charges,” he told DVB. “My client has been living in Rangoon throughout this period and has no idea why she is only being charged now. Pressing an untimely charge against her just shows how the police have failed in performing their duties.”
Meanwhile another activist, Htin Kyaw, a former political prisoner who rose to fame by organising a rare protest in early 2007 against a hike in commodity prices, has been sentenced to over two years by courts in Rangoon’s Mingalar Taungnyunt, Pabedan and Kyauktada townships on similar charges to Naw Ohn Hla – under Article 18, the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Processions Law, and Article 505(b) for sedition.
He is currently awaiting further verdicts in Rangoon’s Kyauktada and North Okkalapa townships, said his wife Than Than Maw.