Court proceedings begin against Myanmar child rape suspect

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Mya Thein, the father of rape suspect Aung Gyi, talks to journalists during the court appearance of his son Monday, July 15, 2019, in Nyapyitaw, Myanmar. (AP Photo/Aung Shine Oo)
Mya Thein, the father of rape suspect Aung Gyi, talks to journalists during the court appearance of his son Monday, July 15, 2019, in Nyapyitaw, Myanmar. (AP Photo/Aung Shine Oo)

Naypyitaw (AP) — A court in Myanmar began proceedings Monday against a suspect in the rape of a 2-year-old girl at her nursery school, in a case that has generated huge interest and protests, partly because of doubts that the arrested man is guilty.

Aung Kyaw Myo appeared at Dakkhina Thiri District Court in the capital, Naypyitaw, for a 15-minute hearing to acknowledge the charge of rape against him.

The suspect was first arrested in May soon after the rape of the 2-year, 11-month-old girl, who has been given the pseudonym “Victoria” by supporters and the media to protect her privacy. He was released due to insufficient evidence but was rearrested earlier this month.

Demonstrations in cities around the country have demanded justice in the case, with many expressing the opinion that the accused man was wrongly arrested. Social media postings have circulated rumors that the actual perpetrators are well-connected people.

More demonstrators turned up outside the court Monday to show their concern.

“Our first priority is to seek the truth,” said lawyer Khin Maung Zaw, who is representing the defendant. “I will help to free him from the charge.” He also told reporters he would attempt to find out who committed the crime.

Mya Thein, the father of the accused man, said his son told him he was innocent.

The next court hearing is scheduled for July 24.