Lawyer for U Ko Ni’s family accuses defence of delaying verdict

By YE MON | FRONTIER

YANGON — Eighteen months after the murder of prominent lawyer U Ko Ni and after 62 pre-trial hearings, a lawyer representing the family of the victim has accused the defence of deliberately delaying proceedings. 

U Nay La told reporters outside Yangon’s Northern District Court on Friday that lawyers acting for Ko Ni’s suspected killer and conspirators were delaying the course of justice. Late last month, the defence submitted a list of 50 witnesses. 

Ko Ni, a senior legal adviser to the National League for Democracy, was killed outside Yangon International Airport. The rare assassination shocked the country and has not been fully explained, but is believed to have been politically motivated.

On Friday, the second witness for the defence testified; U Aung Win Zaw is one of four defendants in the case and is charged with premeditated murder under 302(1)(b) of the Penal Code. He is alleged to have hired gunman U Kyi Lin, who was detained at the scene, to carry out the killing.

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Aung Win Zaw on Friday repudiated allegations by prosecution witness U Aung Soe that in June 2016, six months before the murder, Aung Win Zaw offered him up to K100 million to kill an unnamed “diplomat” in downtown Yangon.

Aung Soe previously testified that Aung Win Zaw, with whom he had served time at Mandalay’s Obo Prison, visited his Insein Township home and offered to pay him K30 million in advance to shoot dead a “diplomat”. He would have received an additional K20 million to K70 million after completing the job, he testified, adding that he declined the offer because he valued his freedom.

The accused denied all the allegations and said he had not listened to Aung Soe’s testimony because he knew it was false. Defence lawyer U Aung Khine then asked to see airport CCTV records, which were shown in court and which revealed that Aung Win Zaw was beside Kyi Lin at the airport. Aung Win Zaw told the court he did not know that Kyi Lin was beside him. 

Prosecution lawyer Nay La said he strongly believed that the accused was lying to the court. “They are trying to prolong the trial,” he said.

Aung Win Zaw then submitted a pair of trousers as evidence in a bid to disprove an allegation by Police Major Tun Maung Swe that he had destroyed his clothing after the murder by throwing it, along with his mobile phone, into Pazundaung Creek. 

Nay La objected, saying that the trousers were easily replaceable and the court rejected the evidence. Aung Win Zaw is expected to continue his testimony at the next hearing, which is scheduled for July 26. 

There are four defendants in the case: former military officer U Zay Yar Phyo is also charged with premeditated murder, while driver U Aung Win Tun, who has been charged under section 212 of the Penal Code for allegedly harbouring an offender, has been released on bail.

Police allege that Aung Win Zaw’s brother, former military officer U Aung Win Khaing, who is still on the run and was last seen in Nay Pyi Taw, was the mastermind behind the murder.

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