Nearly a year after being arrested and charged under the Counter-Terrorism Law, four men including the chair of the Taungup Township Development Affairs Committee in Arakan State were acquitted on Monday, according to their lawyer.
The Taungup Township Court arraigned the men on June 30, 2020, on charges brought under Section 52(a) of the Counter-Terrorism Law, following their arrest in May of last year. Section 52(a) is a sentencing provision for those found guilty of “acts of terrorism,” and stipulates a minimum punishment of three years in prison with a maximum seven years behind bars.
But the judge acquitted them on Monday under Section 258(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, said their lawyer Daw Theingi Maung.
The Taungup Development Affairs Committee chair, U Zeya Kyaw, his younger brother U Sithu Kyaw Zan and former committee chair U San Ngwe, as well as the vice chair of the Arakan National Party (ANP) for Taungup Township, U Wai Thaung, were accused of having ties to the Arakan Army and providing food to the ethnic armed group.
Police Major Zaw Myint Tun from Sittwe Police Special Branch opened a lawsuit against them following their arrest in May, and testified against them in August during one of several hearings in the 11-month trial.
“I have felt various feelings. I am glad now that they are acquitted,” said Daw San San Aye, the wife of U San Ngwe. “I believe they were acquitted because they are not guilty.”
During some two years of fighting between the Tatmadaw and Arakan Army in Arakan State, a total of 362 people were arrested on suspicion of having ties to the AA and charged under the Counter-Terrorism Law, according to the Thazin Legal Institute.
Seventy-eight of them — one from Mrauk-U District, four from Kyaukphyu District, one from Maungdaw District, 67 from Sittwe District and five from Thandwe District — have so far been released due to lack of evidence.
The State Administration Council, as Myanmar’s junta describes itself, rescinded a declaration of the Arakan Army as a terrorist group on March 11. The families of detainees charged under the Counter-Terrorism Law over alleged AA ties have expressed hope for the release of the accused following the de-designation, though an official in Arakan State sought to tamp down those expectations earlier this month.