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Thailand: Koh Tao defence seeks 2nd appeal hearing extension

Ko Zaw Linn and Ko Wai Phyo
Ko Zaw Linn and Ko Wai Phyo
The defence team for 2 Myanmar men facing the death penalty for the murder of 2 British tourists on Koh Tao will today file a 2nd application to push back an appeal against the sentence.

Lawyers for the 2 Rakhine State natives convicted of murdering the backpackers in Thailand are assembling additional points to contest the forensic evidence that formed a crucial part of the prosecution case.

Thai police handling of the case - from failing to secure the murder scene to testing of the DNA sample collection - was internationally decried, but on December 24 the court said the evidence against the Myanmar defendants proved their guilt beyond "reasonable doubt". Ko Zaw Linn and Ko Wai Phyo were sentenced to death.

The defence team has appealed the sentence and in collaboration with Australian DNA expert Jane Taupin is questioning the prosecutors' claim that forensic samples lead to a 100 percent match with the defendants.

The appeal hearing is slated for February 24, but the defence is petitioning to delay the court date.

According to the Migrant Worker Rights Network, the team has pored over nearly 4000 pages of court records, and has assembled an extensive list of more than 100 appeal points focusing mainly on the DNA. The extra time will be used to coordinate with experts from Australia, Britain and Thailand, said network chair U Sein Htay.

The court ordered an initial postponement on January 20, just 4 days before the appeal was to be heard. U Sein Htay said he is not sure the defence will get a 2nd temporary reprieve.

"If the court does not approve the request, we will send our appeal report before the deadline on February 24," he said.

He added that the 2nd request is being made in order to translate some of the court documents from Thai to English in order to bring them to forensic analysts for review.

U Aung Myo Thant, a legal adviser at the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok, said an embassy team is also preparing to hand over analysis to the defence.

"The Myanmar delegation team will also give suggestions to the defence team after finishing observations on the murder case documents," he said.

The December death penalty verdict sparked outrage in Myanmar. Protests led by nationalist monks have been scheduled every Sunday, and even Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing weighed in, suggesting his Thai counterparts "take another look" at the case.

During a visit to Yangon earlier this month, migrant rights expert Andy Hall, who has been advising the defence team, said the case against the pair is "not strong".

"They should be released," he said. "That is not to say they are guilty or not guilty, but the case against them is not strong."

Source: Myanmar Times, Feb. 18, 2016


Court approves delay for Koh Tao appeal

A Thai court yesterday agreed to delay an appeal hearing for 2 Myanmar men sentenced to death for the murder of 2 British tourists. The hearing has been pushed back to March 24 at the defence team's request.

It is the 2nd time the defence has applied for and received an extension to give them more time to prepare their case.

U Sein Htay, chair of the Migrant Worker Rights Network, which has been assisting the defence team, said he did not think any further extensions would be needed.

"The appeal will be finished before the 2nd extension deadline," he said

He said the 2nd deferral was requested so that the team would have more time to translate some of the court documents from Thai into English so they can be reviewed by Western forensic analysts.

The case largely rests on hotly contested DNA evidence, which the Thai court ruled on December 24 proved the Myanmar defendants guilty beyond reasonable doubt. The defence has pored over nearly 4000 pages of court records and assembled more than 100 points to dispute.

"The extra time to prepare is allowing us to put together the strongest appeal that we can. We are trying our best for these 2 men," said U Sein Htay.

The defence team is collaborating with Australian DNA expert Jane Taupin to question the prosecutors' claim that forensic samples led to a 100 % match with the defendants.

Rakhine natives Ko Zaw Linn and Ko Wai Phyo were convicted and given the death penalty for the murders of 2 British backpackers on the Thai holiday island Koh Tao.

Source: Myanmar Times, Feb. 19, 2016

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