Dead­line set for Koh Tao pros­e­cu­tion’s appeal

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - NYAN LYNN AUNG nyan­lyn­naung@mm­times.com

The lawyers for two Myan­mar men ap­peal­ing a death penalty con­vic­tion are op­ti­mistic af­ter the Thai court’s an­nounce­ment that no fur­ther ex­ten­sions will be granted to the pros­e­cu­tion, which has de­layed the hear­ing of the appeal nine times.

LAWYERS for two Myan­mar na­tion­als sen­tenced to death in Thai­land are op­ti­mistic about a favourable appeal fol­low­ing a re­cent an­nounce­ment from the pre­sid­ing Thai court.

The court an­nounced that no fur­ther ex­ten­sions will be granted to the pros­e­cu­tion, which has de­layed the hear­ing of the appeal nine times since it was lodged in May this year.

The pros­e­cu­tion has been given un­til Novem­ber 10 to sub­mit a re­ply to the de­fen­dants’ appeal to the court. So far no such ac­tion has been taken.

Ko Zaw Linn and Ko Wai Phyo were con­victed and sen­tenced to death in De­cem­ber 2015 for the mur­der of David Miller and the rape and mur­der of Han­nah Witheridge on Koh Tao, an is­land pop­u­lar with tourists.

At the time of their con­vic­tion, the de­fen­dants’ le­gal team said the ver­dict rep­re­sented “an ex­treme mis­car­riage of jus­tice” and called for the sen­tence to be over­turned as the pros­e­cu­tion’s case was based on cir­cum­stan­tial ev­i­dence.

In May, the mi­grant work­ers’ lawyers lodged a 198-page appeal de­tail­ing 21 de­fi­cien­cies in the pros­e­cu­tion’s case, in­clud­ing the in­cor­rect ad­mis­sion of ev­i­dence and the fail­ure of po­lice to iden­tify a po­ten­tial sus­pect in CCTV footage who was re­ferred to as the “run­ning man”. Con­cerns over the ve­rac­ity of DNA ev­i­dence used to con­vict the pair also plagued the case.

U Aung Myo Thant, a le­gal ad­viser from the Myan­mar em­bassy in Thai­land, said that if the pros­e­cu­tion did not pro­vide any re­ply to the appeal by the Novem­ber 10 dead­line, Ko Zaw Linn and Ko Wai Phyo would have a strong chance of a favourable out­come given that the court would have to con­sider the points made in the de­fen­dants’ appeal with­out any re­but­tal from the pros­e­cu­tion.

“We don’t know how the court will de­cide on their sen­tence but it may well be changed if the pros­e­cu­tor does not make any re­ply to our appeal. Our appeal is strong and points out many weak points in the pros­e­cu­tion’s case that sug­gest that the crimes may not have been car­ried out by these two Myan­mar mi­grant work­ers,” said U Aung Myo Thant.

U Sein Htay, chair of the Mi­grant Worker Rights Net­work, was sim­i­larly op­ti­mistic con­cern­ing the de­fen­dants’ prospects.

“If the pros­e­cu­tor does not lodge a re­ply to the appeal, this could be a good sign for Zaw and Phyo,” he said. He added that this would mean that the court would be forced to con­sider the points made in the appeal from only one per­spec­tive.

Ac­cord­ing to U Sein Htay, the two de­fen­dants were re­cently vis­ited by his or­gan­i­sa­tion at the prison they are held in. Their men­tal health is re­port­edly strong and they hope to soon be re­leased.

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