Asia - Pacific

Myanmar: 2 get death penalty for Muslim lawyer’s murder

Gunman, co-conspirator sentenced to death in assassination case of former Suu Kyi aide, killed at airport in 2017

Myanmar: 2 get death penalty for Muslim lawyer’s murder

By Kyaw Ye Lynn

YANGON, Myanmar

A Myanmar court on Friday sentenced two defendants to death over the assassination of a leading Muslim lawyer who was also the aide of de facto leader of the country.

The 63-year-old Ko Ni, who was the legal advisor to the ruling party leader Aung San Suu Kyi, was shot in the head by a gunman at Yangon International Airport on Jan. 29, 2017.

Gunman Kyi Lin, who was arrested shortly after the shooting, reportedly confessed to having been hired by a group of three ex-military officers and a businessman to assassinate Ni.

Upon this, police arrested Zaw, Zeya Phyo, and Aung Win Tun, suspected as co-conspirators, in February 2017.

On Friday, Lin and co-conspirator Aung Win Zaw were given death penalty after Yangon Northern District Court found them guilty of premeditated murder and illegal weapons possession for the shooting at the airport.

In the attack, Nay Win, a taxi driver aged 48, was also shot dead outside the airport as he attempted to apprehend the gunman.

Lin was also sentenced to 20 years in prison for causing the death of Win.

However, the suspected ringleader Aung Win Khaing, a retired lieutenant colonel, was declared fugitive by the court.

He is also the subject of an Interpol “red notice” issued upon the request of the Myanmar police.

Jail term for Phyo below expectations

The trial finally reached a verdict after 104 hearings in more than two years since the killing.

The Myanmar court also ordered jail term for other two defendants of the case for their role in the assassination.

Zaya Phyo was handed out five years in prison for falsifying the evidences, while Aung Win Tun was sentenced to three years behind bars for harboring an offender.

Khin Maung Htay, a prosecution lawyer, said they were “not satisfied” with the sentence Phyo received.

“Zeya Phyo should be charged and given sentence over premeditated murder, but the court downgraded it. We are not satisfied with the sentence. So we are going to appeal to higher courts,” he told the journalists outside the court.

“This part of the rulings has not met our expectations,” he said.

‘Court failed to find out perpetrators’

Though the case reached the verdict, many believe that it did not reveal the truth.

Robert San Aung, a well-known human rights lawyer, told Anadolu Agency that the court failed to find out who was behind the killing.

“These guys are not the masterminds. Gunman Lin testified in the court that he committed the crime because he and his family were threatened by a former military officer called Myint Swe,” he said by phone on Friday.

“So the truth will not be exposed as long as Aung Win Khaing or Myint Swe is still at large,” said the lawyer who is also a Muslim.

He was dubious whether the two fugitives were the real masterminds of the murder, though.

“No one knows if they are still alive or if they are protected by someone who is in power,” he said.

“So, there is still a long way to go for real truth and justice to be exposed.”

No truth to be revealed when Khaing at large

Anadolu Agency was unable to reach Ni’s family members, who did not appear Friday's hearing, for their comments on the court rulings.

Last year, Yin Nwe Khaing, eldest daughter of victim, told Anadolu Agency that the only thing the family was wary of was losing sight of truth and justice.

'‘What we want to know is who is really behind this,” Khaing said in January 2018, adding that she believed the four suspects were not the only ones behind the assassination.

“It seems we cannot get the truth as long as Aung Win Khaing is still at large,” said Yin Nwe Khaing.

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