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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - The Post’s publisher walks free from court

The Post’s publisher walks free from court

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Ross Dunkley at court in Yangon yesterday.

Publisher Ross Dunkley is preparing to return to Phnom Penh following the end of his trial in Myanmar, 140 days after it began.

Dunkley was found guilty of one of four charges relating to an incident in Yangon on January 18. He was sentenced to 30 days in prison, but as he had already spent 47 days in the notor-ious Insein Prison, he walked from the court a free man.

As a result of that conviction, however, he was also found guilty of breaching his visa conditions and was fined K100,000 (about US$100).

Dunkley said immediately after leaving the court that he would appeal to clear his name.

Dunkley, a co-founder of The Myanmar Times and the publisher of The Phnom Penh Post, was convicted of causing minor injuries to Myanmar woman Ma Khine Zar Lin, a charge he strongly denies. “The doctor called to to give evidence said this could have been caused by anything,” Dunkley said after the verdict was handed down.

“The girl wanted to withdraw the case twice. I absolutely deny that I touched this girl inappropriately.

“I was merely looking after this girl to get her to a taxi. I was worried about her, that’s all.

“I don’t hurt people. I don’t grab them by the neck or do anything stupid like that. Ever-yone knows I don’t do that.

“Many people have known me for a long, long time, all of my staff, they know that I’m not capable of doing such an act, so therefore I will appeal it.

“I will appeal this and hope to win it as time goes by.”

The hearing, which began  about 2pm yesterday, was attended by staff from The Myanmar Times and more than 20 local and foreign journalists.

As soon as the session started, U Aung Min, the judge for Kamaryut township, read the verdict. The judge found Dunkley not guilty of providing Ma Khine Zar Lin with drugs, pointing to the fact that Ma Khine Zar Lin did not mention being drugged in the first information report and only said it later at the court. Additionally, police found no drugs when they searched Dunkley’s home.

U Aung Min repeated testimony from a doctor who said the injuries to Ma Khine Zar Lin’s neck could have been caused by traditional medical treatment and the injury to her forehead could have occurred when she hit her head in Dunkley’s car. However, the court found Dunkley guilty of causing minor injuries to Ma Khine Zar Lin, and subsequently of violating Section 13(1) of the Immigration Act.

When final arguments were presented at the 18th hearing on June 21, Dunkley’s lawyer, U Aung Than Soe, said there was no evidence that his client had committed the offences for which he had been charged and, according to the principle of presumption of innocence, he should therefore be acquitted.

U Aung Than Soe referred to differences between the first information report and the court testimony of Ma Khine Zar Lin, the main witness for the prosecution, whose allegations included being held against her will at Dunkley’s house between January 16 and January 18 this year.

Defence witnesses testified at the previous hearing on June 16 that Ma Khine Zar Lin was not present at Dunkley’s home between January 16 and 18.

One of the defence witnesses testified at the June 16 hearing that Dunkley had arrived home with Ma Khine Zar Lin late on January 18, but had left with her in his car within about 15 minutes and had returned home alone 15 minutes later.

Dunkley told the June 16 hearing he had never supplied drugs to Ma Khine Zar Lin, that there were no drugs in his home and that he had never broken the law in Myanmar.

In February, Ma Khine Zar Lin submitted an application to withdraw her charges against Dunkley, and approval for her to do so was granted in May.

Post Media chairman David Armstrong  has previously said that Dunkley’s arrest came amid discussions with his Burmese partners over the newspaper’s ownership.

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