NAYPYITAW, Myanmar (AP) - A court in Myanmar on Wednesday (Dec 18) dismissed charges against a nursery school bus driver accused of raping a toddler, in a case that generated great public interest because of widespread doubts that the defendant was guilty.
Aung Kyaw Myo was first arrested in May soon after the rape of the two-year, 11-month-old girl, who was given the pseudonym "Victoria" by supporters and the media to protect her privacy.
He was released due to insufficient evidence, but later rearrested.
No evidence emerged linking the man to the crime at the school in Myanmar's capital, Naypyitaw, and some testimony exculpated him.
Many people believed he was a scapegoat, with rumours rife on social media that the actual perpetrators were well-connected people.
Public demonstrations were held demanding justice for the girl, including outside the court when the trial opened in July.
"I didn't misbehave with the kid. My hands are clean. This is the truth," Aung Kyaw Myo, also known as Aung Gyi, told reporters after the court released him.
He offered thanks to the public for their support and the desire to hear the truth in the case.
The incident occurred on his first day working as a driver for the school.
"I can't describe my feelings. I didn't even expect this release," he said.
Khin Maung Zaw, one of the defence lawyers, said the judge had been searching for the truth.
Another of the defence lawyers, Su Darli Aung, said her team had been struggling and suffering because of their efforts.
"We got threats as well," she told reporters. "So this is the happiest moment for me in my 15 years as a lawyer."
She added that if the prosecution of their client continued on appeal, they could also continue to offer him legal aid.
Nickey Diamond, a human rights specialist for the activist group Fortify Rights, noted that while the court's action was good for Aing Kyaw Myo, the government or the court should also compensate him because he had been wrongly accused.
"When we examined the case, it had appeared very unlikely that he was the one who committed that crime," he said.
"The problem is that the real perpetrator is missing."