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Witness testimony heard in Par Gyi case

Par Gyi's body is exhumed in Mon State on 5 November 2014. (PHOTO: DVB)

A third hearing in the case of the death of freelance reporter Par Gyi, who was killed while in military custody in September, was held in Mon State on Thursday.

Ma Thandar, the widow of Par Gyi, said she attended the hearing after not being informed about two prior court dates.

She said the Kyeikmayaw township court on 30 April heard testimony from three civilian witnesses in a pre-trial investigation to verify the cause of his death.

Journalist and activist Par Gyi, also known as Aung Kyaw Naing, was detained by the army and accused of having rebel connections while he was covering the conflict between the Burmese army and the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army in Mon State’s Kyeikmayaw.

“The court is examining the cause of death – whether he died of natural causes or not. After the judge makes a decision, charges will be pressed accordingly, and I will stand as the prosecutor in the trial,” said Ma Thandar.

Ma Thandar said she and her family had not been informed of the two previous hearings that took place on 10 and 23 April, in which three policemen gave their witness accounts.

“I only found out [about the hearings] from a local report on 23 April, so I came here on Thursday to enquire about the details with the township police chief U Khin Maung Aye, who filed the case to the court. It was only confirmed to me when I got to his office that there has been a pre-trial investigation,” she said.

Ma Thandar, also a witness in the case, is due to give her testimony at the next hearing on 11 May.

An investigation into the death of Par Gyi by the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) that took place at the end of 2014 suggested that a trial in a civil court was needed for transparency.

Ma Thandar blasted this report, however, as neither comprehensive nor impartial. She called for a new and independent investigation into her husband’s death.

She highlighted the shortcomings in the MNHRC report, such as a failure to mention the Kyeikmayaw police handing him over to the Burmese army without court procedures, and what she maintains are the inaccurate details of injuries Par Gyi sustained.

The case has garnered much international attention, and was referenced in the Human Rights Watch 2015 report, and the Freedom House report on press freedom.