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Shouting match derails Letpadan student trial

File photo of activists being escorted to Tharrawaddy courthouse for a prior hearing. (PHOTO: DVB)

A court hearing for student activists was cut short on Tuesday when the defence lawyer engaged in a shouting match with the presiding judge, leading to the activists chanting, and the judge suspending proceedings.

The courtroom chaos occurred at Tharawaddy district court in the latest of a long series of hearings involving some of the nearly 70 students and civilian activists who are detained in Tharawaddy prison. The 69 face charges including sedition and rioting after a brutal police crackdown on a sit-in protest in the neighbouring Pegu Division town of Letpadan on 10 March.

Hla Myo Myint, a lawyer representing students at Tuesday’s proceeding, said the court was scheduled to hand down a decision on an argument presented by the defence but that a quarrel ensued when another defence lawyer in the team, Khin Khin Kyaw, requested that her previous comments be stricken from or amended on the court records. She had apparently incorrectly identified a policeman as “lieutenant-colonel” instead of “captain”.

“When the judge refused, Khin Khin Kyaw would not accept the decision and the two engaged in a shouting match,” he told DVB. “Then the students began chanting: ‘We don’t want this judge!’.

“That angered the judge, who cut the hearing short without passing a decision.”

More than a hundred activists and protestors were originally arrested in March following the police crackdown on a sit-in demonstration in Letpadan. Many protestors were injured in the crackdown, with reports of beatings and excessive use of force employed by authorities to dispel the peaceful rally. The students had stopped in Letpadan during a cross-country rally to Rangoon to protest an education law that omitted key provisions demanded by student activists, such as calls for decentralisation of the education system and the right to form student unions.

Another hearing is scheduled for 8 September.

 

Read more about the Letpadan hearings here.