Ten Burmese Buddhists who were ordered jailed for their role in deadly violence against Muslims in Rakhine State will appeal against their conviction, according to their lawyer, who claims the judgment was based on testimony that didn’t fit the charges made against them.
“The court record shows that the charges made against my clients do not match witnesses’ testimony, and we are planning to appeal the sentences,” Ay Nu Sein, the men’s lawyer, told RFA’s Burmese Service on Friday.
A township court in the Rakhine capital Sittwe on May 7 sentenced the 10 defendants to terms ranging from nine months’ to three years’ imprisonment at hard labor on charges of theft and destruction of property committed during a period of communal violence in the state, the online Irrawaddy journal reported.
The June 2012 unrest, together with clashes in October, left at least 192 dead and 140,000 homeless, most of them Muslim Rohingya, who rights groups say bore the brunt of the violence.
Burmese security forces arrested the 10 men shortly after the June violence and accused them of burning Muslim houses in a village in Kyauk Taw Township, The Irrawaddy said, adding that though the men were also charged with stealing cows, sources have suggested the animals may have simply escaped amid the chaos of the attack.
Muslims charged in another case
A long-awaited official report released last month after a probe into the communal violence in Rakhine has recommended that security forces be doubled in the area and that more aid be channeled to help minority Muslim Rohingyas displaced in the clashes with ethnic Buddhists.
The report also recommended a review of the citizenship status of the largely stateless Rohingyas, but did not hint at any major reforms that will embrace them as citizens.
Separately, seven Burmese Muslims were charged this week with the murder of a Buddhist monk during communal riots in Meikhtila City in March.
The monk was among at least 43 people killed in a wave of violence stemming from a quarrel between a Buddhist couple and a Muslim goldsmith in his shop.
Six of those charged face the death penalty if convicted in one of the most high-profile cases since sectarian violence first flared nearly a year ago.
A seventh suspect, who is under 16 years old, will be tried in a juvenile court in connection with the murder of the monk, who according to reports was pulled off his motorbike, attacked, and burned on March 20.
Reported by Min Thein Aung for RFA’s Burmese Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Richard Finney.