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Reuters reporters trial: ‘Hostile’ police witness held incommunicado

Prosecution witness Police Captain Moe Yan Naing walks outside the courtroom during a hearing for detained Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo in Yangon on 20 April 2018. (Photo: Reuters)

Following his controversial testimony at the trial of two Reuters journalists on Friday, it has emerged that Deputy Police Captain Moe Yan Naing has been held incommunicado in prison since his detention in December when he was part of an apparent “sting” operation to trap the reporters.

Renowned Burmese human rights lawyer Robert San Aung, who is the general-secretary of Myanmar Lawyers’ Network, today described Moe Yan Naing’s incarceration for 129 days without family visits as “not in line with the law”.

Speaking to DVB, Robert San Aung said, “A member of the police force may be detained for up to 60 days. Now Moe Yan Naing has been behind bars for 129 days. This is not in line with the law, nor is it in line with the Constitution or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

On Friday, Moe Yan Naing appeared at the trial of Reuters’ reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, and testified that his fellow police officers had arranged a “set up” to trap the pair. His unexpected testimony led prosecutors to request that the policeman be considered a “hostile witness” and his testimony struck from record.

Surrounded by media outside the courthouse after Friday’s hearing, Moe Yan Naing declared, ““The reason for speaking the truth is [to show] that police officers, of any rank, have dignity.”

But repercussions were to follow. At the weekend, Moe Yan Naing’s family were evicted from their police accommodation in Naypyidaw.

Tu Tu, Moe Yan Naing’s wife, said on 21 April that she has still not been informed of her husband’s whereabouts nor the charges he is facing.

During a press conference on Monday morning in Mandalay, Tu Tu called on President Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi to intervene in the case, adding, “I am counting on them.”

She also expressed concern that her husband may be subject to torture during his detention.

Meanwhile, in the town of Pyay, some 200 kilometres southwest of the Burmese capital, a group of concerned citizens have stood up in a show of solidarity with the disgraced police captain.

Speaking to DVB, lawyer Aye Thandar said, “The Myanmar Lawyers’ Network has sent a letter to the President calling for the protection of Deputy Police Captain Moe Yan Naing … The security of his family members and legal representative has become a concern.”

Dozens of local supporters staged a rally in front of Pyay Youth Center on Sunday afternoon, including representatives of Myay Lat Journalists Network, Pyay Youth Center, New Democratic Society Party, and Myanmar Independent Lawyers Association.