Charges against comedian’s suspected killers downgraded to assault

An image posted by a Facebook page under the name Than Htut Aung, the same name as one of Aung Yell Htwe’s suspected killers, shortly after all three suspects were released on July 25, 2018. Photo: Facebook / Than Htut Aung

The trial of the three young men suspected of fatally beating viral video star Aung Yell Htwe resumed yesterday after the case was controversially closed in July, leading to the arrest of six government employees, including the Yangon Region attorney general, for corruption.

However, rather than being tried for murder under Section 302 of the penal code, as they had been initially, they are now facing charges of assault under Section 351.

Suspects Than Htut Aung (aka Thar Gyi), Pyae Phyo Aung (aka Aung Lay) and Kyaw Zaw Han (aka Kyaw Zaw) surrendered to police in early January, shortly after Aung Yell Htwe succumbed to head injuries at a Yangon hospital. He had been severely beaten at a New Year’s Party at the ONE Entertainment Park in Thingangyun Township.

However, the case was suddenly dropped in July, with prosecutors saying there was not enough evidence to proceed, despite the fact that the beating took place at a well-attended festival in front of multiple witnesses. A celebratory Facebook posts appearing to have been posted by one of the suspects sparked widespread public criticism, prompting President Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi to look into the case. Union Attorney General Htun Htun Oo ordered the case reopened in a few days later.

In September, Yangon Region attorney general, plus five other officials, including the judge and prosecutors in the case, were arrested for allegedly taking bribes from Khin Maung Lay, the father of suspect Than Htut Aung. Khin Maung Lay agreed to testify against the officials in exchange for immunity.

The suspects were thought to have fled Myanmar after their case was dismissed, but they all appeared at the Yangon Eastern District Court in Thingangyun Township yesterday. The court is expected to hear from 22 witnesses for the prosecution, starting at the next hearing on Oct. 16.

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