Wednesday, 16 September 2009 23:12
New Delhi (Mizzima) – Burmese rebels, who are currently undergoing trial at a City Sessions Court in India’s Kolkata, on Wednesday, told the Court that they were not criminals, but freedom fighters from Burma, and they were betrayed by an Indian military intelligence officer.
In the statements signed by 17 of the 34 Burmese rebels on Wednesday, the rebels said they were not gunrunners and were not criminals, but are fighting for democracy and human rights in Burma, which is under military rule.
“Seventeen of the accused signed their statements today, and the other 17 will sign their statements on Thursday,” Siddharth Agarwal, one of the defense lawyers of the rebels, said.
The statements were given by the accused in response to the judge’s questions, which were based on the allegations made by the prosecution witnesses.
The rebels, who belong to Arakan and Karen ethnic nationalities of Burma, were arrested by Indian military personnel in Landfall Island in February 1998.
While the Indian military establishment claimed that they were arrested for gunrunning, the rebels said they were freedom fighters against military rule in Burma and were betrayed by the Indian military intelligence, who promised to allow them a base on Landfall Island. In the statement to the Court, the rebels said, it was a false case and the prosecution’s witnesses have deposed falsely. And that they were not criminals and had an invitation by Indian authorities through a military intelligence officer named Lt. Colonel Grewal who speaks Burmese fluently.
The rebels said, they were met by Indian forces in February 1998, on the high seas, near the Coco Islands and were taken to the Landfall Island, which is a small island, included among the archipelago.
The accused said, they were blindfolded by Indian forces, who then took away six of their leaders, following which they heard gun shots.
“After that we never saw our leaders again,” the rebels told the Court on Wednesday, according to their lawyer.
Agarwal said the prosecution witnesses alleged that the accused were illegal foreigners entering India and in possession of arms and ammunition. However, the rebels in their statement denied having any arms and ammunition with them.
“We have a good case, we hope for acquittal,” Agarwal said, adding that the prosecution was unable to produce enough evidence to support their allegations.
The rebels, who were members of the National United Party of Arakan (NUPA) and Karen National Union (KNU), armed groups fighting against the Burmese military junta, following their arrest in 1998, were kept in detention in Port Blair for eight years.
The Supreme Court, after receiving an appeal from human rights lawyer, Nandita Hakshar, in October 2006, ordered the rebels to be moved to Kolkata’s Presidency Jail and to conduct a day to day trial.
The Court wrapped up the hearing of more than 20 prosecution witnesses in early September this year. While 17 of the accused gave their statements on Wednesday, the remaining 17 will give their statements to the allegations made by the prosecution witnesses on Thursday.