October 20, 2017

Appeal to be made for Koh Tao death sentences

Zaw Lin (L) and Win Zaw Htun (R). Photo: Reuters

A special investigative team formed by the Myanmar Embassy in Thailand is planning to appeal the recent decision by a Thai court that upheld death sentences for two Myanmar nationals.
“Depending on instructions from authorities in Myanmar, we will make an appeal to the High Court of Thailand,” said U Aung Myo Thant, a legal adviser from the Myanmar embassy in Thailand, following the recent announcement from the presiding Thai court.
“Thailand’s law allows us to make an appeal within a month. But we can request a one-month extension at least five times if our complaint is reasonable,” he said.
A Thai appeals court upheld the death sentences for two Myanmar migrant workers convicted of the murder of two British backpackers on a vacation island in 2014, their lawyer said on Wednesday.
The bodies of backpackers Hannah Witheridge and David Miller were found on a beach on Koh Tao island in September 2014. Police said Witheridge, 23, had been raped and bludgeoned to death and Miller, 24, had suffered blows to his head.
Thailand sentenced Myanmar migrant workers Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun to death after convicting them of the crime on 24 December 2015.
The decision to uphold the death sentence for the two Myanmar men was handed down on 23 February, but the defence lawyer was not informed of the decision until eight days later, prompting questions of legal adherence and calls for an appeal.
“The means in which the verdict was read in this case without informing defence lawyers raises questions regarding adequate adherence to the rule of law. The defence legal team will immediately liaise with Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo to prepare the defendant’s appeal to the Supreme Court on this ruling. It is a deeply disappointing ruling for the defence team given our confidence in the strength of our arguments regarding the inadequacy of forensics in this case,” Andy Hall said on Wednesday. Hall is a British rights activist and the international affairs adviser to the defence team.
A team of lawyers filed an appeal in May last year against the guilty verdict. The 198-page appeal said that DNA evidence used in the case was inadmissible and had not been collected, tested, analysed or reported in accordance with internationally accepted standards.
“The appeals court upheld the death sentence for the two defendants,” Nakhon Chompuchat, the defence team’s head lawyer, told Reuters on Wednesday.
The defence has 30 days to make another appeal to the supreme court.
The 2015 verdict followed an investigation and trial that were mired in controversy, including allegations of police incompetence, mishandling of evidence and torture of the suspects.
Thai police drew widespread domestic and international criticism for their handling of the case and the evidence. Protests erupted in Yangon after the verdict, with many people believing the two workers were scapegoats. Soe Win-MLA contributed to this story

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