Saturday, November 22, 2008

Zarganar, Ashin Gambira Get Long Prison Terms

The Irrawaddy News
November 21, 2008

Burma’s best-known comedian Zarganar and the prominent monk Ashin Gambira were among 35 regime critics sentenced to long prison terms in another day of trials in Rangoon’s Insein Prison on Friday.

Zarganar, whose anti-regime satire was a constant thorn in the side of Burma’s ruling generals, was given a 45-year term. Gambira, one of the leaders of the September 2007 uprising, was sentenced to a total of 68 years.

The media friendly Zarganar was convicted on several criminal charges, including infringements of the Electronic Act, 505 b.

Zarganar was arrested in the night of June 4 in a raid in which the authorities seized his computer, about US $1,000 (1,140,000 Kyat) in cash and three CDs containing footage of May’s cyclone devastation, the opulent wedding of junta leader Snr-Gen Than Shwe’s youngest daughter Thandar Shwe and the film “Rambo 4,” in which Hollywood star Sylvester Stallone fights Burmese government soldiers in a mission to rescue kidnapped westerners.

The 29-year-old Gambira was also convicted on several charges, including offences under Section 505 A and B of the State Offence Act, Section 13/1 of the Immigration Act, Section 17/1 of the Illegal Organization Act, Section 33 A of the Electronic Act and Section 6 of the Organization Act.

One of Zarganar’s associates, Zaw Thet Htwe, who helped him deliver aid to cyclone survivors, received a sentence of 15 years imprisonment. Another associate, Tin Maung Aye, was sentenced to 29 years imprisonment and a third, Thant Zin Aung, received 15 years imprisonment.

The trials of Zarganar, Zaw Thet Htwe and Thant Zin Aung are still proceeding, and the court is expected to pronounce further sentences on them next week.

Thirteen members of the 88 Generation Students group received prison sentences ranging from three to five years on Friday and they are also expected to face further sentences next week, sources said.

Five Buddhist monks were among a further eleven regime opponents who were also sentenced to prison terms on Friday, prison sources said. All took part in the September 2007 uprising.

The 11 condemned were identified as Pyinya Thiha, Pyinya Dipa, Narapatint, Okantha Marla, Zarnayya and dissidents Htun Htun Naing, Than Htay, Soe Shwe, Ngwe Soe, Khin Htun and Kyaw San Lay.

Htun Htun Naing, Than Htay, Ngwe Soe and Kyaw San Lay were each sentenced to four years imprisonment for offences under sections 145 and 505 b of the criminal code, said one source close to the court. Khin Htun sentenced to four-and-half-years for offences under sections 143, 145, 505 b.

The sentences handed out to the monks are not yet known. All of them are from Tharthana Theippan monastery in Rangoon’s Bahan Township.

Tharthana Theippan was the scene of a ceremony held by members of the 88 Generation Students group in August 2007 to mark the 19th anniversary of the 1988 uprising. The ceremony honored the students, monks and citizens who lost their lives during the uprising.

In Thursday’s sessions of the current wave of trials, about 20 detained activists were given prison sentences of between two and six years. They included the Burmese hip-hop star Zayar Thaw, who is a leading member of Generation Wave, a dissidents group founded by young Burmese activists during the September 2007 uprising.

More than one hundred democracy supporters, including Buddhist monks, defense lawyers, members of the opposition National League for Democracy and the 88 Generation Students group have so far been sentenced by Burmese courts since the beginning of November. The longest sentence was the 68 year term of imprisonment handed out to Ashin Gambira on Friday.

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