On 9 June 2012 patrolling army troops and paramilitary personnel arrested Lahpai Gan and Baran Yaun on a general suspicion near Talawgyi Village, along with three cattle traders, while they were having lunch and taking a break from driving cattle. There had recently been a battle in the area with members of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). The troops took the men back to the village and assaulted them and detained them at the Buddhist monastery compound. After around three days, they took them by boat at night to the Talawgyi Police Station, and from there, to Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State.

On June 14 Captain Soe Paing of military intelligence took charge of the men, and at the army’s Northern Command Headquarters had them assaulted to the point of drawing blood, tortured and threatened to admit to being KIA soldiers. The methods of torture included techniques commonly reported in Myanmar, in addition to common assault: being forced to kneel on gravel for extended periods, forced simulated or actual homosexual intercourse, burning of genitals with candles, and burning the skin with the blade of a hot knife. They also include particular methods developed apparently in cases concerning Kachin people accused of involvement in the KIA, such as a stress position where the detainee is forced to stand imitating Christ crucified on the cross (since Kachin are predominantly Christian).

While the three traders were released, on the basis of the illegal detention and interrogation, on 26 June 2012 Captain Soe Paing handed the men to the police, who took them to the Kachin State Police Reserve Force premises where they interrogated them further, after which Inspector Ye Lwin lodged a case in court against the two and four other men—two of whom were also detained in Talawgyi and tortured by military intelligence, and two who were not in custody—for being members of an unlawful association.

Then, in the six months that this case was being heard, another police officer, Inspector Thein Win, opened a second case against the two men over a mine blast that had occurred outside the Myitkyina district office, causing damage to property but no casualties. Although his investigation had found five other men as being responsible for the crime, since he had failed to detain any of them he prosecuted these two accused in their stead.

In court, a police witness for the prosecution, Inspector Yan Aye, acknowledged under cross examination that the police had no eyewitnesses to the bombing, and had no evidence to link the two accused men to the crime but had based the case exclusively on the information supposedly obtained during illegal detention and interrogation in the army HQ. Furthermore, the defendants showed to the court the scars of injuries suffered while being tortured. Nevertheless, the court accepted the evidence obtained through use of torture in illegal detention, in violation of the Evidence Act and Criminal Procedure Code, and while releasing the two other detained accused of the charges, convicted Lahpai Gan and Baran Yaun.

The two men have throughout maintained their innocence and have appealed to successive courts to have the convictions overturned but the case has not been reheard in any court. Their lawyer is now taking the case to the final possible step in the judicial process of a special appeal to the Supreme Court; however, to have a special appeal accepted and heard is a difficult process and the prospects are not at all good.

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