Friday, November 28, 2008

Zarganar’s jail term extended to 59 years

Nov 28, 2008 (DVB)–Rangoon's western provincial court yesterday added 14 more years to the prison term of comedian Zarganar for four offences, including defaming the Sasana and violating the unlawful association and video acts.

Comedian and activist Zaganar, who had already been sentenced to 45 years’ imprisonment for three different violations of the video act, is now set to serve a total of 59 years in prison.

His co-defendant Zaw Thet Htway had four more years added to his 15-year prison term on two charges on the same day, while activist Thant Zin Aung's term was extended by three years to 13 years.

Zarganar's sister-in-law Ma Nyein said he look “cheerful as usual” when she saw him being taken away from the court in a prison truck.

Zaw Linn, Zarganar’s lawyer, said the activist was given the maximum terms for the charges.

"Unjust trials will continue until Burma's political problems are solved," he said.

Zarganar was this week honoured with the Freedom to Create Imprisoned Artist award by ArtVenture in association with freedom of expression organisation Article 19.

The prize recognises artists who use their talents to promote understanding and confront oppression.

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

READ MORE---> Zarganar’s jail term extended to 59 years...

Detained activists transferred after sentencing

Nov 28, 2008 (DVB)–The ongoing transfers of activists have caused confusion among family members hoping to visit their relatives, while the regime continues to sentence further activists to lengthy jail terms.

Teza Soe, Tun Min Aung and Tin Min Sein from the Akaungzon Mye Awzar group were jailed for 13 years on Tuesday by Sanchaung township court, according to a local resident who attended the hearing.

88 generation student leader Hla Myo Naung, who was transferred to Kachin state's Myitkyina prison on 22 November, was put in solitary confinement when he arrived and no one has been allowed to see him, according to a source close to the prison.

Another 88 generation student leader, Aung Thu, has been transferred to northern Kachin state's Pu-tao prison from Myitkyina along with two other activists Bo Bo Win Hlaing and Myat San.

The family of 88 generation student leader Ko Ko Gyi is still trying to find out where he is being held, his younger brother Aung Htun said.

Aung Htun said he had called Mong Hsat prison, where the activist was reported to have been transferred, but prison officials refused to give him any information.

Five more activists were also transferred from Insein prison on Wednesday.

Thein Swe, who was sentenced to six and a half years’ imprisonment on 17 November, was sent to Sittwe prison in Arakan state from Insein.

Thein Swe’s father Min Swe said he was not told about the transfer until he went to Insein prison to ask about his son.

All Burma Federation of Student Unions leader Si Thu Maung was also transferred to Sittwe prison after being sentenced to 11 and a half years on the same day as Thein Swe.

U Sanda Thiri and U Kovida were taken from Insein to Buthidaung prison, while NLD member Htar Htar Thet was sent to Bago prison.

U Eindaka, abbot of Maggin monastery, and monk U Panna Wuntha of Shwedaung monastery in Pazundaung have also reportedly been transferred to Lashio and Sittwe prisons respectively.

Reporting by Nan Kham Kaew

READ MORE---> Detained activists transferred after sentencing...

New restrictions hamper appeal process

Nov 28, 2008 (DVB)–The authorities are using new restrictions and delaying tactics to make it difficult for defence lawyers to lodge appeals on behalf of detained activists, a lawyer told DVB.

Defence lawyer Pho Phyu, who represents several political prisoners, said the delays could damage his clients’ chances of a successful appeal.

"In order to lodge the appeals we tried to copy down the sentences at the court but we are not allowed to do so,” said Pho Phyu.

“These delays could cause us to lose the opportunity to lodge the appeals," he said.

"And even when we have got all the necessary documents from the lower courts, we still need to apply for a legal representative’s letter from Insein prison because our clients have been transferred to regional jails."

The greatest difficulty is the reduction in the time allowed to prepare an appeal, Pho Phyu said.

"Before, we were allowed three months to prepare for the appeal,” he explained.

“Now only one month is allowed, according to the latest amendment to the law."

Separately, the authorities are continued their campaign of intimidation against government opponents.

U Asaya of South Dagon monastery was arrested early this month and is being tried at Insein township court for having foreign contacts.

Kyaw Thu Htike/Hteik of Hlaing Tharyar was arrested in connection with last September’s demonstrations and is being tried at Mayangone township court.

He is expected to be sentenced on 10 December, International Human Rights Day.

Kyaw Thu Htike was a worker in the Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone and had been actively working for the rights of his colleagues.

Reporting by Khin Hnin Htet

READ MORE---> New restrictions hamper appeal process...

Total prison term for Zarganar climbs to 59 years

by Than Htike Oo
Friday, 28 November 2008 12:03

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The Insein prison court has tacked on an additional 14 years to the prison term of famous comedian and film director Zarganar, bringing his total sentence to 59 years behind bars.

Zarganar was sentenced to 14 more years yesterday by the Rangoon West District Court Judge Kyaw Swe on five counts, including inducing against state security and charges under the Video Law.

"They gave him 14 years today and six months for video distribution. I think he (the judge) was kind hearted and gave only six months. But he was given an additional 14 year prison term today," his sister-in-law Ma Nyein told Mizzima.

The Insein prison court previously gave Zarganar 45 years in prison on three counts under the Electronic Law on November 21 – with the additional prison term handed out only six days later.

Zarganar's defence lawyer, Zaw Lin, said that he would file an appeal for his client.

"We must copy the judgment for appeal and ready the criminal power signed by my client. And then we plan to file an appeal against the verdict," he said.

"I'd like to pass on the words Ko Zarganar said at the court today. It's just a joke. He said that currently in the whole world, including Japan and China, the economy is declining. These countries have also admitted this fact. But in Burma, it is rising instead of declining – in prison terms. He cracked this joke at the court."

Zarganar was arrested at his residence in June this year at a time when he was heavily involved in cyclone relief operations for victims of May's deadly storm.

The pro-democracy activist has criticized authorities many times before by cracking jokes – being called from his home, interrogated and detained on many occasions for such brazen behavior.

The Insein prison court also sentenced sports columnist Zaw Thet Htwe today to an additional four years, as well as giving activist Thant Zin Aung another three years. The two had already been given 15-year prison terms each on November 21.

READ MORE---> Total prison term for Zarganar climbs to 59 years...

The Bell Tolls for Burma

The Irrawaddy News

The latest insult to the intelligence of the Burmese people was the excessive sentences handed down recently to pro-democracy activists—including Buddhist monks, social workers, lawyers and women—by the Burmese military authorities under the guise of "national reconciliation" between the regime and the opposition movement.

Burma's dictator-in-chief, Snr-Gen Than Shwe, has forced the populace to accept his "seven-step road map" political process, whereby he calls the shots and locks up any opposition while at the same time saying he wants "to build a peaceful, modern and developed new democratic nation with flourishing discipline."

The response from the international community has been weak and fractious.

The United Nations General Assembly's Third Committee last week passed a resolution critical of human rights conditions in Burma. However, it was only approved by a vote of 89 in favor, 29 against and 63 abstentions after an intense round of disagreement among its members. Hardly a strong and united message.

While the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), which includes Burma, has nothing to say about the recent judicial crackdown on the Burmese opposition, China and India are free to move in again and secure their business ties with the Burmese junta, exploiting both the country’s economy and its natural resources.

China recently announced that the project to build an oil and gas pipeline from Yunnan Province in southwestern China to the bay of Bengal on Burma's Arakan coast would go ahead as planned, starting in early 2009.

For its part, India won a concession for the construction and operation of a multi-modal transit and transport facility on the Kaladan River connecting the port of Sittwe, capital of Arakan State, with the Indian state of Mizoram.

Although the US and the EU countries routinely condemn the regime and maintain economic sanctions, it is clear the White House is preoccupied with the ongoing financial crisis, the transition to Barack Obama’s administration and its disastrous military action in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Some US lobbyists have suggested that the serious human rights abuses in Burma should be prioritized in Obama's foreign policy with bipartisan support from the US Congress and Senate. We shall see.

But when the political pundits can only shrug and utter comments like “Something is better than nothing,” you know Burma is facing its darkest night.

Many of them have criticized the politicking of detained NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the leaders of 88 Generation Students, calling it a "strategic failure."

Those so-called experts have also come to believe that a "space" would open up following the 2010 election and the subsequent realization of provisions under the constitution.

However, in Naypyidaw’s eyes, there isn’t even enough space in the government for the existing junta and its emerging ranks, never mind allowing civilians into the club.

Meanwhile those "pragmatics" say there are different approach between the "insiders" and "outsiders" of the country, and the exiles can only criticize but they don’t face the stark reality of daily life in the country.

Certainly the pro-democracy activists who were recently sentenced to 65 years in prison know the difference between "insiders" and "outsiders" in the struggle for liberty. They will wake up to it every day in dark, dirty cells.

In fact, there is no alternative. To break the political deadlock, we must follow the path of dialogue and compromise.

Burmese people know that the dawn of democracy is not tomorrow—in the words of UN Special Rapporteur Tomás Ojea Quintana, the "restoration of democracy cannot happen overnight. It will take generations."

In today’s world, the new generation is looking toward young, energetic leaders such as US President-elect Obama. The word "change" rings out like a bell tolling hope for people around the world.

But Burma has already sacrificed generations in this struggle—young people shot in the streets, imprisoned or forced to flee the country.

Perhaps that's why Min Zeya, a leading member of the 88 Generation Students group, openly ridiculed the Burmese court when his sentenced was pronounced. “What? only 65 years?” he shouted.

The world is moving forward. It must not neglect the brave political prisoners of Burma, nor allow them to die forgotten in remote prison cells.

READ MORE---> The Bell Tolls for Burma...

Judicial Crackdown in Burma Continues

The Irrawaddy News

Fifteen detainees, including two journalists, were given harsh prison sentences on Friday, according to sources in Rangoon.

Thet Zin, 42, an editor for the weekly journal, Myanmar Nation, and his manager, Sein Win Maung, both received seven-year prison sentences on Friday at a court in Thingangyun Township in Rangoon, said their relatives in Rangoon.

Thet Zin founded the Myanmar Nation in 2006. He is a former political prisoner and had previously worked as a reporter and editor for several weekly journals, including News Watch and Ah Lin Tan.

Thet Zin and Sein Win Maung were arrested in February in a raid in which military intelligence officers seized UN Special Rapporteur Paulo Sergio Pinheiro's report on Burma, Shan ethnic leader Shwe Ohn’s book on federalism and a VCD containing footage of the 2007 September uprising.

At a special court in Rangoon’s notorious Insein Prison, thirteen members of the 88 Generation Students group, including six women, were each sentenced to six years in prison on Friday, according to sources.

They were all sentenced under charges of threatening creating instability under Section 505 (b) of the Burmese penal code. Some of them had previously received prison terms ranging from three to five years.

The 13 were named as: Thein Than Htun, Thaw Zin Htun, Zaw Htet Ko Ko, Pyi Than, Saw Myo Min Hlaing, Aung Theik Soe, Chit Ko Lin, San San Tin, Lay Lay Mon, Noble Aye, Nwe Hnin Yi, Tharapi Theint Theint Htun and Aye Thida.

The judicial crackdown followed the severe sentencing of 14 members of the 88 Generation Students group on November 11. The 14 were among about 40 dissidents each given prison terms of 65 years for their political activity against the Burmese military government.

Burmese courts have recently handed down increasingly harsh sentences on those dissidents suspected of leading the 2007 uprising, including Buddhist monks, lawyers, relief workers and journalists. A prominent Buddhist monk, Ashin Gambira, received the longest prison sentence to date—68 years.

Sources in Rangoon estimate there are still 40 detained activists, monks and cyclone volunteer relief workers still awaiting trail.

On Thursday, a special court in Insein Prison handed down an additional sentence to Burma’s best-known comedian, Zarganar, and two journalists, Zaw Thet Htwe and Thant Zin Aung. Zarganar has now been sentenced to a total of 59 years in prison while Zaw Thet Htwe was given 19 years and Thant Zin Aung got 18 years.

More than 100 of the jailed dissidents have been transferred by Burmese authorities from Insein prison to remote prisons around Burma, creating difficulties for detainees’ relatives to make prison visits.

Also on Friday, a member of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions, Dee Nyein Lin, appeared at a court in Htantapin Township in Rangoon Division, said sources.

READ MORE---> Judicial Crackdown in Burma Continues...

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