Burmese Activists Jailed for 65 Years Over Protests

Published on
by
The Guardian/UK

Burmese Activists Jailed for 65 Years Over Protests

by
Ian MacKinnon

A closed military court in Burma
sentenced 14 pro-democracy activists to 65 years each in prison
yesterday for their part in last year's anti-government uprising.

The
leaders of the 88 Generation students group had staged small-scale
protests against the sudden fuel price rises which fomented unrest that
led to demonstrations led by monks. At least 31 people were killed in a
subsequent army crackdown in Rangoon.

The severity of the
sentences handed to the 14 leaders, including five women, at the
hearing in Rangoon's notorious Insein jail stunned even those inured to
the harsh military regime.

Another 20 activists, among the
hundreds of political dissidents seized in swoops this year, are being
tried on numerous charges and could face sentences of up to 150 years
each.

Some of those sentenced yesterday faced four charges of
using electronic media and were given 15 years on each count, with a
further five years for forming an illegal organisation.

The best
known among the group are Thin Thin Aye, also called Mie Mie, and Kyaw
Min Yu, also known as Ko Jimmy, who were arrested in August last year.
They also included Ko Jimmy's wife, Nilar Thein, who fled into hiding,
leaving their four-month old daughter with her parents, but was
arrested two months ago.

Nyunt Nyunt Oo, the mother of Pannate
Tun, said her son was sentenced to 65 years under charges that ban
possession of illegal videos, making speeches or statements, and taking
part in demonstrations.

"No family members or defence lawyers were present at the trial," she said.

Defence
lawyers Aung Thein and Khin Maung Shein were earlier sentenced to four
months imprisonment for contempt of court, while other legal
representatives were so tightly restricted that the activists stopped
using them.

The activists were part of the leadership of the 88
Generation that rose up against the regime 20 years ago. They were
tortured and given long jail terms when the rebellion was crushed with
the deaths of as many as 3,000 people. On release within the last five
years they renewed their activism in less confrontational ways.

The
sentences came a day after a Burmese blogger arrested after the
protests last year was jailed for 20 years and a poet was sentenced to
two years. Amnesty International estimates there are now 2,100
political prisoners in Burma.

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