For Immediate Release
Amnesty International Welcomes Myanmar's Release of U Win Tin
Human Rights Group Urges Myanmar Officials to Release Other 2,100 Political Prisoners
WASHINGTON - Amnesty International welcomes
the release of at least seven prisoners of conscience in Myanmar, including
U Win Tin who had been imprisoned for 19 years and was one of the longest-serving
prisoners of conscience in the country.
However, the fate of the other estimated
2,100 political prisoners, who are still behind bars in Myanmar, remains
a cause for concern, said Amnesty International today.
"While the release of U Win Tin and his
fellow prisoners is certainly the best news to come out of Myanmar for
a long time, unfortunately they don't even represent one percent of the
political prisoners there," said Benjamin Zawacki, Amnesty International's
Myanmar researcher. "These seven people should never have been imprisoned
in the first place, and there are many, many more prisoners who should
also be released."
Amnesty International notes unconfirmed reports
that the government of Myanmar may grant "amnesty" to as many as 9,000
prisoners in the run-up to elections scheduled for 2010. Yet it remains
unclear whether this figure includes political prisoners.
U Win Tin refused to accept an "amnesty"
by the government, as to do so would have implied that the reason for his
imprisonment was legitimate. Reports indicate that there were no conditions
on his release.
"Prisoners of conscience, like those released
today, are exactly what the term says: people sent to prison simply because
of what they believe, and the peaceful actions they take because of those
beliefs," added Zawacki. "They have done nothing wrong and we call for
their immediate and unconditional release."
U Win Tin is a 78-year-old journalist, prominent
dissident and senior official in the main opposition National League for
Democracy (NLD) party, led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
The other six prisoners of conscience released
are also NLD members and four are MPs-elect from the 1990 elections in
which the NLD was victorious.
* Dr. Daw May Win Myint (female), 58, an
MP-elect, and Dr. Than Nyein (male), also an MP-elect, 71, were imprisoned
in 1997 for organizing an NLD meeting. Their original sentences had
been repeatedly extended since 2004 and they suffer from poor health.
* Win Htein (male), 66, a senior assistant
to NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, was imprisoned in 1996 for, among other
offenses, organizing farmers and NLD members to collect agricultural statistics.
He had been held in solitary confinement and suffers from numerous
health problems, including hypertension and heart disease.
* Aung Soe Myint Oo (male), an NLD MP-elect,
was sentenced in August 2003 to seven years, for "having a motorcycle
without a license," but was widely believed to have been targeted
for his political activities.
* U Khin Maung Swe, (male) 66, an NLD MP-elect,
was sentenced in August 1994 to seven years in prison.
* U Than Naing (male), a member of the NLD.
"The release of these seven political prisoners
is most welcome. But this is not -- and cannot be seen as -- an end in
itself, only the beginning," said Zawacki.
Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action
to its supporters about U Win Tin in July 2008. He had been in Yangon's
Insein Prison, often in solitary confinement, for much of the past 19 years
and had not received the medical treatment he needed.
U Win Tin was arrested on July 4, 1989, during
a crackdown on opposition political party members. He was sentenced three
times to a total of 21 years' imprisonment. U Win Tin was most recently
sentenced in March 1996 to an additional seven years' imprisonment for
writing to the United Nations about prison conditions and for writing and
circulating anti-government pamphlets/leaflets in prison. The authorities
characterized this as "secretly publishing propaganda to incite riots
U Win Tin had written a document for the
United Nations which he called The testimonials of prisoners of conscience
from Insein Prison who have been unjustly imprisoned; demands and requests
regarding human rights violations in Burmain, in which he described
torture and a lack of medical treatment in prison. While the authorities
were investigating the writing of this letter, U Win Tin was held in a
cell designed for military dogs, without bedding. He was deprived of food,
water, and family visits for long periods.
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Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.2 million supporters, activists and volunteers in over 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.