Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Gambira to Snub Military Court

The Irrawaddy News

Ashin Gambira, the detained leader of the All Burma Monks’ Alliance (ABMA), will not appear for trial on Thursday if the Burmese military authorities do not accede to his request to be tried under Buddhist law, his lawyers and relatives in Rangoon told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.

“Ashin Gambira has stated that he refuses to wear handcuffs,” Aung Thein, one of his lawyers, said. “In accordance with Buddhist law he should also be allowed to wear his monk’s robes when he appears for trial.”

However, his requests were denied by Insein prison court on Monday, his lawyer said.

Aung Thein told The Irrawaddy that Ashin Gambira had been charged with nine separate criminal offenses by the military court. The alleged offences include: State Offence Act 505 A and B, Immigration Act 13/1, Illegal Organization Act 17/1, Electronic Act 303 A and Organization Act 6.

Ashin Gambira was one of the monks who spearheaded last year’s pro-democracy uprising. After security forces brutally suppressed peaceful demonstrations on September 26-27, the head monk was arrested and subsequently disrobed by the authorities without consultating the Sangha, the institution of the Buddhist monkhood.

“We appealed to the military court to try Ashin Gambira before a Buddhist system of justice,” Aung Thein said. “The authorities have no right to disrobe him or to charge him with criminal offenses.”

Ashin Gambira’s legal adviser added that the army has its own code of military discipline, as does the national police. In turn, the law of the Sangha should be equally recognized, he added.

“The state’s senior monks should be permitted to hear the case against Ashin Gambira, because he is a monk,” Aung Thein said. “There is no law in Burma forbidding persons to chant the Metta Sutta [the Buddha’s words on loving kindness].”

The ABMA led thousands of monks and civilian protesters in street demonstrations last year. The military authorities’ bloody crackdown left at least 10 persons dead, although human rights groups claim up to 31 protesters may have been killed while thousands of monks and civilians were arrested and detained.

The Thailand-based Burmese Lawyers’ Council released a statement on Tuesday calling for the Burmese military government to immediately cease bringing Buddhist monks before a military court.

Meanwhile, the state-run Burmese State Sangha Nayaka Committee has begun eliciting signatures from monks at Zayawaddy monastery in Rangoon as guarantees that they will refrain from involvement in political affairs, according to a monk close to the monastery.

The monk said that 70 monks are studying at Zayawaddy monastery and that most monks had already signed the pledge.

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