12 Dec No visitors for New Zealand Bar Manager, including lawyer, says friend

Written by Matt Roebuck Published in Myanmar Read 2967 times
New Zealander Mr Philip Blackwood is not allowed to receive foreign visitors in Insein Prison. Photo: Thet Ko/Mizzima New Zealander Mr Philip Blackwood is not allowed to receive foreign visitors in Insein Prison. Photo: Thet Ko/Mizzima

The New Zealand Embassy Office in Myanmar has been told their application for a permit to visit Mr Philip Blackwood, accused of contravening Myanmar’s religious insult laws, may take up to two weeks to process, even though his court date is set for December 18, a friend of the accused told Mizzima on December 12.

“They applied to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who said a lawyer will be able to accompany the embassy officials when they get the permit,” said the friend, who preferred to remain anonymous.

Mr Blackwood’s troubles to find effective representation remain, after finding himself with a court appointed lawyer, who spoke no English, representing him at the preliminary hearing held on December 11.

Mr Blackwood was recommended to approach U Aung Thane, a lawyer known for his involvement in controversial cases such as the Unity Journal case involving the reporting of an alleged chemical weapons factory.

“He initially accepted the case [on the evening of December 11] but then called us in this morning and said he could no longer represent Phil,” said the friend on December 12.

When contacted by Mizzima on December 12, U Aung Thane declined to comment on the matter.

Three lawyers had already chosen not to take on the case, citing its controversial nature.

He added that New Zealand’s charge d’affaires Mr Bruce Shepard, who is due to become the country's ambassador to Myanmar in the near future, had been assisting Mr Blackwood’s wife in her efforts to find a replacement lawyer and for Mr Blackwood’s parents to send money to pay for representation.

He said that they had also been informed the police were also now looking into the whereabouts of DJ Jay, who also goes by the artistic name ‘Dhamma Phunk’, the artist scheduled to perform at the event that was advertised by displaying an image of Buddha with headphones.

Mr Blackwood, who is general manager of ‘Vgastro.bar’ is currently been remanded in Insein Prison, after bail was denied for him and his co-defendents in the case, owner U Tun Thurein and manager Ko Htut Ko Ko Lwin.

Mr Blackwood’s family are aware that U Tun Thurein and Ko Htut Ko Ko Lwin have received visitors.

“His wife was told by a guard at Insein that Burmese people can visit but no foreign visitors are allow,” added the friend.

Last modified on Friday, 12 December 2014 18:39