Legal officer calls for tourist to be formally tried
A township official requested yesterday that the court pursue a formal trial for Dutch tourist Klaas Haytema.
A TOWNSHIP legal officer in Mandalay has formally requested that Dutch tourist Klaas Haytema face a criminal trial for his actions on September 23, when he unplugged an amplifier that was being used to broadcast a Buddhist dhamma sermon.
Mr Haytema is accused of disconnecting the amplifier at about 10pm on September 23 outside his hotel near Thusarita Dhammaryone, a religious community hall in Maha Aung Myay township, Mandalay Region.
A number of preliminary arraignment hearings have been held so far in the case with witnesses, including Mr Haytema, giving evidence about the night’s events.
If the court decides to go forward with criminal prosecution, the defendant will face charges under section 295 of the penal code for intentional insult to religious feelings or beliefs. He is facing additional charges under immigration laws.
Yesterday, another witness, Daw Yi Yi Win, gave evidence that seemed to corroborate the testimony of previous witnesses in the case.
According to her testimony, she was reciting the Dhamma Setkya sermon in the community hall when the incident occurred. She said Mr Haytema entered the hall with his shoes on, shouted “hey” and signalled to those gathered in an apparent attempt to indicate that he wanted the amplifier’s sound cut. He then unplugged some cords, switching off the amplifier outside the community hall.
Following Daw Yi Yi Win’s testimony, U Sithu Swe Tun, township legal officer for Maha Aung Myay township, made a formal application to the court that Mr Haytema’s case should go to trial, given the weight of evidence against him in the preliminary hearings.
“Since preliminary hearings in this case began on September 28, we have received the testimony of the plaintiff U Kyaw San as well as testimony from U Chit San, Daw Yi Yi Win, Daw Ohnmar Cho, Police Lieutenant Myint Lwin and Ma Zin Mar Oo,” he said.
The legal officer said that the evidence given by all these witnesses, along with police records and other written statements, was sufficient to bring Mr Haytema to trial and have him answer for his actions.
“It is clear that Mr Klaas Haytema entered the Dhammaryone wearing his shoes, thereby breaching section 295 of the penal code. Mr Haytema has a responsibility to explain his actions,” he said.
U Sithu Swe Tun also made similar statements regarding the charges pending against Mr Haytema under section 13(1) of the Immigration Act, which require a tourist’s adherence to Myanmar’s laws and customs.
When asked by the judge through an interpreter whether he should be charged, Mr Haytema said that he had acted stupidly and did not know that it was a religious building.
The judge in the preliminary hearings will decide today whether Mr Haytema’s case should proceed to trial. If it does and he is found guilty, he could face up to two years’ imprisonment.
Yesterday morning two officials from the Dutch embassy in Yangon were permitted to visit Mr Haytema in prison, together with his girlfriend, according to a report in the Leeuwarder Courant. It was the first time they were permitted to visit him.
“He’s doing well, given the circumstances,” a spokesperson for the Dutch foreign ministry was quoted as saying.
‘It is clear that Mr Klaas Haytema entered the Dhammaryone wearing his shoes.’
U Sithu Swe Tun Township legal officer