Thursday, November 20, 2008

Myanmar court sentences student activists

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) -- A court in military-ruled Myanmar sentenced a student activist to 6 1/2 years in jail, a week after his father received a 65-year prison term for his own political activities and a decade after his grandfather died in custody.

Colleagues said Di Nyein Lin was one of three student activists sentenced Wednesday by a suburban Yangon court for offenses including causing public alarm and insulting religion. The colleagues spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

Di Nyein Lin's father, Zaw Zaw Min, was one of 23 members of the 88 Generation Students group sentenced last week to 65 years in prison.

Zaw Zaw Min's father, Saw Win, was a member of Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party. He died in prison about 10 years ago.

Many of the 88 Generation Students' members were at the forefront of a 1988 pro-democracy uprising and were subjected to lengthy prison terms and torture after the rebellion was smashed by the military. They resumed political activities after being freed, spearheading protests against the junta.

In an intensive judicial crackdown on the country's pro-democracy movement, at least 70 activists have received prison sentences in the past two weeks. Many of them were held for more than a year before being tried.

The sentences -- which will keep many prominent activists in jail long past a general election set by the military rulers for 2010 -- have received worldwide condemnation.

Most of the 88 Generation members were arrested on August 21, 2007, for protesting a fuel-price hike, while others were arrested after rallies led by Buddhist monks that were violently suppressed in September that year.

They were sentenced under various charges, including a law calling for a prison term of up to 20 years for anyone who demonstrates, makes speeches or writes statements undermining government stability, and for having links to illegal groups and violating restrictions on foreign currency, video and electronic communications.

Also Wednesday, Kyaw Swa Htay was sentenced to five years and Kyaw Hsan to four years in prison.

Amnesty International and other international human rights groups say the junta holds more than 2,100 political prisoners, up sharply from nearly 1,200 in June 2007 -- before last year's pro-democracy demonstrations.

The prisoners include Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest, as she has been on and off since 1989.


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