Court mulls verdict in Dutch tourist’s case

An out­come is ex­pected to be an­nounced to­mor­row af­ter a Dutch na­tional ac­cused of out­rag­ing reli­gious sen­ti­ment pled not guilty, with his de­fence ar­gu­ing there was no in­tent to of­fend when he un­plugged an am­pli­fier broad­cast­ing a dhamma ser­mon in Man­dalay

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - PHOTO: THAN NAING SOE

THE pre­sid­ing judge in the case against Dutch tourist Klaas Haytema, who is ac­cused of out­rag­ing reli­gious sen­ti­ments af­ter un­plug­ging the am­pli­fier used to broad­cast a dhamma ser­mon last month, has for­mally con­firmed that the crim­i­nal trial will pro­ceed, with a verdict to be handed down to­mor­row.

On Oc­to­ber 3, the pros­e­cut­ing le­gal of­fi­cer from Maha Aung Myay town­ship, U Sithu Swe Tun, made a for­mal ap­pli­ca­tion to the court rec­om­mend­ing that Mr Haytema’s case should go to trial, given the weight of ev­i­dence against him pre­sented in pre­lim­i­nary hear­ings.

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.

He has been charged un­der sec­tion 295 of the pe­nal code for in­ten­tional in­sult to reli­gious feel­ings or be­liefs. He is fac­ing ad­di­tional charges un­der im­mi­gra­tion laws.

Yes­ter­day, the town­ship court judge an­nounced his de­ci­sion to for­mally in­dict Mr Haytema. He asked the ac­cused to en­ter a plea, to which Mr Haytema re­sponded, “I did not do it with in­ten­tion. I didn’t know it was a reli­gious build­ing. So, I am not guilty.”

U Hla Ko, chair of the Myan­mar Le­gal Aid Net­work, ap­peared pro bono on Mr Haytema’s be­half and for­mally en­tered a plea of not guilty, sim­i­larly ar­gu­ing that the crux of his client’s case went to the ques­tion of in­tent.

“Num­ber one, he had no in­ten­tion [to in­sult re­li­gion] so he should not be con­victed un­der sec­tion 295. Num­ber two, he did not de­stroy any­thing so, again, he should not be con­victed,” U Hla Ko said, re­fer­ring to part of sec­tion 295 that sub­jects any­one who “de­stroys, dam­ages or de­files any ob­ject of wor­ship” to up to two years’ im­pris­on­ment.

The im­mi­gra­tion charges faced by Mr Haytema are con­tin­gent on him be­ing con­victed of un­law­ful be­hav­iour in Myan­mar, and his lawyer there­fore asked that they also be dis­missed.

In re­sponse to the de­fence’s sub­mis­sions, U Sithu Swe Tun said, “I’d like to put for­ward an ar­gu­ment – the say­ing ‘Ig­no­rance of the law is no ex­cuse.’”

Af­ter hear­ing ar­gu­ments from both sides, the judge said the fi­nal verdict would be de­liv­ered on Oc­to­ber 6.

Af­ter yes­ter­day’s hear­ing, his lawyer was asked why he had de­cided to as­sist Mr Haytema, who had gone with­out le­gal coun­sel in prior hear­ings.

“Pre­vi­ously, I [only] helped the poor,” U Hla Ko said. “Sub­se­quently, I de­cided to help any­one who needs it with­out con­sid­er­ing whether they are poor or rich or what race or re­li­gion they are. That’s why I am rep­re­sent­ing him.”

Dutch new­pa­per Leeuwarder Courant quoted Mr Haytema’s mother as say­ing the fam­ily is fol­low­ing the case with up­dates from Mr Haytema’s girl­friend. “We’re hear­ing that our son is be­ing treated well in prison, but he’s also anx­ious of what’s go­ing to hap­pen. We’re try­ing to stay pos­i­tive here,” she said. – Trans­la­tion by Thiri Min Htun

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Myanmar

© PressReader. All rights reserved.