Nov 23, 2012

Myanmar - Religious Leader Jailed for Stirring Arakan Strife

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Sittwe Provincial Court sentenced religious leader Dr. Htun Aung (aka Nu Hauk) to a total of 12 years imprisonment on Wednesday for his role in the communal strife which erupted in Maungdaw, Arakan (Rakhine) State, on June 8.

Htun Aung faced six charges, including instigating a riot and fraud, stemming from a request he made to the local authorities on June 8 to hold a gathering to pray for 10 Muslims killed by an Arakanese mob in Taunggok Township on June 3. Despite giving assurances that the gathering would not result in violence, a riot broke out and Htun Aung was later arrested on June 11.

He was sentenced to seven years under the Section 5(j) of the Emergency Provision Act, two years each under the Sections 153(a) and 505(c) of the Criminal Code as well as an additional year under Section 6(1) of Wireless and Telegraph Act of 1933.

But sources close to the court told The Irrawaddy on Friday that Htun Aung could only serve up to eight years as the Criminal Code sentences are to run concurrently. He previously received three years under Article 24/1 of the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act for illegal possession of a foreign currency in August, but has apparently since appealed this charge.

Htun Aung was acquitted of two additional charges under Article 468 of the Penal Code for possessing a fake Burmese ID card and Article 420 of Burma Penal Code for fraud.

Local people believe that Htun Aung could be granted a presidential amnesty before too long as this has happened repeatedly with similar cases in recent months. Several NGO workers taken into custody in August, reportedly because of their alleged connections to Htun Aung, were later released.

A Maungdaw resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Irrawaddy that “the move could be used in exchange for the three soldiers abducted by the unidentified armed group.” There is rumor that these rebels are demanding to release Htun Aung if the Burma Army want its General Engineering Unit soldiers back. The three soldiers were abducted nearly three weeks ago and remain missing.

The authorities have closed the Burma-Bangladesh border point of entry since Monday and security has been increased.

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