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BBC Burmese Service Reporter Sentenced

FILE - Students on motorscooters shout slogans as a police officer tries to stop them during a protest in Mandalay, Myanmar, March 27, 2015. A BBC reporter was sentenced Monday for a scuffle that occurred while covering student demonstrations.

A court in Myanmar on Monday sentenced a BBC reporter to three months of hard labor for attacking a policeman while covering protests last year in Mandalay.

Mandalay's Chanmyathazi Township court found Nay Myo Lin, 40, a Myanmar national and stringer for BBC's Burmese Service, guilty of assaulting an on-duty police officer. The charge is based on video footage and eyewitness accounts of a brief altercation between Lin and the officer, which unfolded as police blocked the route of a march for education reform that occurred in March 2015.

A video posted online shows a scuffle break out after Lin saw the officer, standing in the middle of a moving motorcade, knock a man off a motorbike.

"It's not fair at all to charge me under Section 332 after ignoring the fact that [the police officer] pulled down the motorcycle [of a protester] and everyone saw the incident," Lin said in response to Monday's verdict, which followed more than a year in police detention. "I didn't mean to hurt that policeman. I just tried to give protection to a citizen who was being treated unjustly in my presence."

Lin says police were reckless in their crackdown, which resulted in numerous arrests. Many student activists, who say a baton-wielding riot squad charged the peaceful demonstration, remain on trial. According to a report in The Irrawaddy Online, police officials say they were attempting to stop protesters on motorbikes, which "caused several drivers to fall." Lin, who was caught up in the accident, allegedly hit one of the officers.

Lin's defense lawyer, Thein Than Oo, told VOA Burmese that the sentence is too harsh and shows that the new civilian government has brought no significant change to the judiciary process in Myanmar, which is also known as Burma.

"I think it's just too harsh," he said. "I [wouldn't be] surprised when the punishment is too harsh in the past. But now that we have a new administration and with hope of building a new nation, it's somewhat disturbing."

Both police and the judiciary are overseen by Myanmar's Home Ministry, which is directly controlled by the armed forces.

BBC's Yangon-based reporter Jonah Fisher said via Twitter that BBC is not in a position to comment on the case.

Produced in collaboration with VOA's Burmese Service. Some information is from Reuters.