An exiled defense lawyer who returned to Burma under the olive branch offered by the new government has been jailed for a previous sentence in absentia, and is now in Insein Prison.
The lawyer, Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min, is a human rights defender and a former leading member of the National League for Democracy youth wing.
It is the first sentencing of an returned exile for a previous offense and it shows that “when it comes to human rights, the government of Burma still cannot be trusted,” the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP-B) said in a statement on Thursday, calling for his release.
Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min, 32, was originally accused of contempt of court while he and two other defense lawyers were defending 11 NLD clients in an October 2008 judicial proceeding, said the AAPP-B.
When another defense lawyer failed to appear in court, the judge forced a defendant to question the prosecuting police officer by himself.
To protest the unfair process, three of the defendants turned their backs to the court.
Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min was charged with contempt when he refused the judge’s order to reign in his client’s behavior, and said: “We don’t want to forbid our clients from doing anything…We are defense lawyers, and we act according to our clients’ instructions.”
Fearing imprisonment, Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min fled to Thailand in October 2008, where he continued to promote the rule of law in Burma.
He was sentenced in absentia under Section 228 of the penal code and sentenced on Aug. 29 by the Rangoon Northern District Court.