By YE MON | FRONTIER
YANGON — Yangon Northern District Court has set February 1 for final arguments by defence lawyers in the long-running trial of four people accused over the killing of lawyer and constitutional expert U Ko Ni two years ago.
The final arguments will follow testimony from the defendants’ witnesses.
Ko Ni, a legal adviser to the National League for Democracy, was shot dead outside Yangon International Airport on January 29, 2017.
The court had scheduled defence witness Police Colonel Win Min Thein, who is involved in airport security, to testify on January 18 about an alleged meeting with suspected co-conspirator in the killing, Aung Win Zaw, and accused mastermind Aung Win Khine, at about the time Ko Ni was shot.
However, Win Min Thein, who failed to appear for a second time on January 18, told the court by letter that he did not want to testify because he did not know everything about the case. The court then decided to have Win Min Thein removed from the list of defence witnesses, despite objections from Aung Win Zaw’s lawyer, U Aung Khine.
Aung Khine told the court on January 18 that Win Min Thein was a key witness for the defendant and removing him as a witness would harm the defence case. Aung Win Zaw has testified that he went to the airport on January 29, 2017, to meet Win Min Thein. “He [Win Min Thein] can explain why Aung Win Zaw came to the airport,” Aung Khine said. “But I can’t urge him to testify for the defendant.”
Prosecution lawyers have said the police colonel is not a key witness and the case would drag on if the court had to wait until he could testify.
“Police Colonel Win Min Thein was not involved in this case and it is not certain that he was at the airport [at the time of the killing],” a lawyer for Ko Ni’s family, U Nay La, told journalists outside court on January 18. “He is not related to the case.”
There are four defendants in the case. They are the alleged hit man, Kyi Lin, former military officer Zeyar Phyo and Aung Win Zaw, who have each been charged with premeditated murder, and Aung Win Tun, who was charged with harbouring an offender and was released on bail. Kyi Lin has also been charged with the illegal possession and transportation of firearms.
The alleged mastermind of the killing, former military officer Aung Win Khaing, who is a brother of Aung Win Zaw, has also been charged with premeditated murder. He remains at large and has been declared a fugitive from justice by the court.
On July 20, Nay La told reporters outside the court that lawyers acting for Ko Ni’s suspected killer and conspirators were delaying the course of justice.