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Pyinnya Sara
An Arakanese abbot and history researcher, Ashin Pyinnya Sara, 57, was sentenced to a prison term of eight years and three months by a court in Sittwe, Arakan State, on July 29. The abbot's monastery, Mahamuni Buddha, was closed and 150 orphans who were being sheltered there were taken to a government-run center. The abbot's collection of Arakanese historical and cultural items was confiscated.
Apart from the prison term, Pyinnya Sara was sentenced to a fine of 10,000 kyat (US $10).

Reporter Min Naing Thu of The Irrawaddy interviewed Pyinnya Sara's lawyer Aye Nu Sein about the case:

Question: What is the next step after the sentencing?
Answer: We have already paid the fine. We will lodge an appeal against charges under Act 292, 295, 406 and 24 (1), which relates to holding foreign currency.

Q:  Who were the actual plaintiffs in court?
There were two lawsuits. One lawsuit was filed by U Tun Thein, and the other by Police First Lieutenant Myot Swe.
The first lawsuit by U Tun Thein consisted of charges under Acts 420, 292, 295, 406, 505 (b) with original case number 61/2010. The second lawsuit by, Police First Lieutenant Myot Swe, consisted of charges under Act 24 (1) of holding foreign currency, with the original case number 62/2010.  Then for the case number 63/2010, Myot Swe acted as plaintiff for the charges under Act 61 (c) of the Municipal Act.

Q: How many witnesses did the plaintiffs' counsel produce in court?
A: For the case number 61/2010, 25 plaintiff witnesses were called. Out of two additional plaintiff witnesses, one was denied, so a total of 26 plaintiff witnesses were questioned.
Q: It was reported that the abbot submitted 34 defense witnesses to the court. However, after the witnesses were pressured by the police, no more witnesses were submitted. How did that happen?
A: I submitted 34 defense witnesses to the court. But while the abbot was preparing a defense in case number 61/2010, the State court declined to hear the case. So the abbot decided to defend himself and not use other defense witnesses. We then submitted our case amendment to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the final verdict was reached.
Q: Initially, it was reported that the abbot was charged under seven different Acts including Act 505(b), but later two Acts were dropped. How were they dropped?
A: In case number 61/2020, the Abbot was charged under five different Acts. We then had to submit our argument why these acts were not lawful to the case. The legal advisory council also claimed that Act 420 and 505 (b) could not be lawfully included in the case. So the court dropped these two acts. After that, we submitted to the State Court, with Case Amendment No. 113/2010, to review other charges. It was declined by the court on the same day it was submitted. On July 29, we submitted the case amendment to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the district court heard the cases against the abbot where he defended himself by not using defense witnesses. After hearing both sides, the verdict was announced.

Q: How many times were you able to meet the abbot during his detention to prepare the case?
A: I and my two assistant lawyers were able to meet with him twice in prison.
Q: Can you say that you had sufficient time to prepare for the case based on the fact that you had met him only twice?
A: Look at the whole proceedings. During the first section of hearing more 26 plaintiff witnesses the trial adjourned for one day. After the charges were made against the abbot, the trial was held daily from 10 a.m to 4 p.m without adjournment. After such a hectic six-day trial, 15 minutes interval breaks were given.
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