UK will not extradite suspect in murder of Yangon teacher

Harris Binotti. Photo: Facebook
Harris Binotti. Photo: Facebook

The British government has turned down a request from Myanmar to extradite Harris Binotti, the prime suspect in the Nov. 2016 murder of fellow British national Gary Ferguson in Yangon.

“In April 2017, the Burmese did submit an extradition request to the Home Office, asking that Harris Binotti be extradited from the UK to Burma to stand trial. After careful consideration, earlier this year, the decision was taken by the Home Office to refuse the extradition request,” an official from the UK Home Office told Martin Ferguson, the victim’s brother, via email on Friday.

“The request was refused due to there being no extradition treaty in place between the UK and Burma. In addition, to extradite Mr. Binotti, the UK would violate several human rights obligations,” the email went on.

Binotti fled Myanmar on the afternoon of Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, hours after a fight broke out in his downtown Yangon apartment. Neighbors told Coconuts at the time that they heard people fighting, a woman screaming, and then silence. One neighbor reported seeing one man trying to move the incapacitated body of another man while “apologizing.”

Police were called to the apartment the next day by the victim’s wife, Thai national Supatchaya Sichompor, who goes by the nickname Nong. She and Binotti’s girlfriend, Belgian national Elsie Devolder, told police that they went there looking for Ferguson after he did return several calls and had not been seen for a day. They told police they broke the lock to the apartment with the help of a neighbor and discovered Ferguson’s body inside.

However, neighbors question called the discovery into question, saying Devolder had been at the apartment during the fight. When she was seen removing items from the apartment on Monday, Nov. 7, 2016, she ignored questions from journalists asking why she had not reported the situation earlier and whether she had helped Binotti flee the country.

The pair were seen in Glasgow in April 2017. Scottish police said at the time that they could not arrest Binotti until an extradition request from Myanmar was approved by the British government. When Myanmar filed the request that same month, the rights group Amnesty International advised the UK government not to send Binotti back to Myanmar on the grounds that Myanmar still has the death penalty on its books as a punishment for murder.

Martin Ferguson has said he will not stop seeking justice for his slain brother. He wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday: “We will not stop before Binotti is behind UK bars for the murder of our brother, son, husband, and father Gary Ferguson. We will need legal assistance in the UK…We will never give up. No matter what.”

In addition to his widow Nong, Ferguson is survived by a six-year-old son named Jeremy.

In Interpol’s Red Notice database, Binotti is still listed as wanted in Myanmar on suspicion of murder.

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