One-year anniversary of arbitrary detention of rights-defender

(YANGON, July 24, 2017)—Myanmar authorities should immediately and unconditionally release ethnic-Rakhine human rights defender Khaing Myo Htun, said Fortify Rights today. Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of Khaing Myo Htun’s arbitrary detention in Sittwe, Rakhine State for allegedly claiming Myanmar Army soldiers used forced labor and committed other human rights violations against civilians in 2016.

If convicted, Khaing Myo Htun faces up to four years in prison. The prosecution will cross-examine Khaing Myo Htun on July 26.

“Khaing Myo Htun and other human rights defenders are gateways to the truth about the Myanmar Army’s appalling human rights record,” said Matthew Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Fortify Rights. “Myanmar authorities should stop trying to bury allegations of wrongdoing with trumped-up criminal charges and instead hold perpetrators accountable.”

short film released today by Fortify Rights explains Khaing Myo Htun’s case and calls for his immediate and unconditional release. Wearing shackles in the film, Khaing Myo Htun says, “I would like to say to the world right now, today, not only for the people in Myanmar, but also for the people around the world—fight for rights, fight for truth.”

On July 25, 2016, Sittwe police arrested Khaing Myo Htun in Baukthisu Ward, Sittwe Township in relation to a statement published on April 24, 2016 by the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP)—the political wing of the Arakan Liberation Army—claiming that the Myanmar Army used forced labor and committed other violations against civilians in Rakhine State in 2016. At the time, Khaing Myo Htun was the deputy information officer for the ALP. Lieutenant-Colonel Tin Naing Tun from the Myanmar Army’s Sittwe-based Regional Operations Command filed charges of sedition and incitement against him.

Judges have repeatedly denied Khaing Myo Htun’s bail applications and his trial has been subject to unnecessary delays after the plaintiff and other prosecution witnesses failed to appear at court and the former presiding Judge Kyaw Zan prematurely walked out of the court without explanation.

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