Lawyer advises jailed Dutchman to appeal
The Myanmar Legal Aid Network chair has encouraged Klaas Haytema to appeal his three-month sentence for disrupting a Buddhist sermon.
THE chair of the Myanmar Legal Aid Network has encouraged Klaas Haytema to appeal a recent verdict handed down to the Dutch national after he sparked outrage by unplugging an amplifier that was broadcasting a Buddhist sermon.
“If he appeals to the Mandalay District Court, his jail term may be reduced or he may be released,” said U Hla Ko, the legal organisation’s chair.
Mr Haytema was sentenced to three months in prison on October 6. The amplifier incident occurred on the evening of September 23 in Maha Aung Myay township, Mandalay Region, with the Dutch tourist later telling a court he had pulled the plug in sleepy frustration over its high-decibel rendering of a dhamma sermon.
“There have been examples of Chinese people having been released and also the people who put earphones on the Buddha’s ears were released,” U Hla Ko said, referring to the high-profile case of New Zealander Phil Blackwood and two Myanmar business partners, who were given two-year prison sentences on charges of insulting religion but were released early in a January amnesty. The trio earned the ire of Buddhist nationalists in 2014 after a promotional flyer for their bar circulated online depicting an image of the Buddha wearing headphones, set against a psychedelic background.
U Hla Ko said he holds copies of Mr Haytema’s verdict in both Myanmar and English languages, which were transcribed at the request of the convicted man’s family. A decision on whether to appeal would ultimately be up to the defendant and his family, U Hla Ko added.
Mr Haytema, 30, was found guilty under the penal code’s section 296 – disturbing a religious assembly – for his conduct last month, which played out at the Thusarita Dhammayone community hall, located near the hotel where he was staying.
He had been charged with section 295, covering “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings”, a more serious offence for which he had faced a possible twoyear prison sentence, as was Mr Blackwood’s fate.
At the hearing last week delivering his verdict, however, the judge said section 296 was the more appropriate charge.
Mr Haytema was also fined K100,000 (US$80) on a related immigration charge.
Klass Haytema is escorted by police in Mandalay on October 6, after the court handed down a guilty verdict.