Fri. Feb 26th, 2021

Yangon (Reuters) – The Myanmar police on Saturday called for putting him on trial for more than two months after he handed himself in to face charges of scuffle with dozens of followers of Buddhist nationalist monk Ashin Veerathu.

The protesters, many of them monks, gathered outside the Insane prison in Myanmar’s main city of Yangon, where Virathu has been held since November last year.

Police said they did not try to break up the protest, but were instigated and arrested a demonstrator.

“We were trying to negotiate and the man spoke ruthlessly and started fighting,” Insen police station chief Teen Latt told Reuters by phone.

The scuffle took place after protests by around 50 people.

Virathu is known for his rhetoric against minority Muslims, especially the Rohingya community. But he is also important as a supporter of Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government and Myanmar’s powerful military.

During the protests, a monk told reporters, “Although he submitted himself courageously and decisively to face trial, he was neither brought to court nor delivered a verdict.” He said that other prisoners in custody should also be brought to trial.

Virathu is facing a lawsuit under a law that bans “hatred or contempt” or exciting ineffectiveness towards the government. It carries a jail sentence of up to three years.

He denies wrongdoing. He handed himself in after running for more than a year.

(Editing by Matthew Tostwin and William Mallard)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.

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