Friday, February 13, 2009

Mizzima's correspondent released - Kyaw Moe

By Nem Davies

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Mizzima's Bangladesh-based journalist was released on Wednesday, after being detained for a year and four months in a jail in Kolkata city.

Kyaw Moe, who was arrested in September 2007, under the Foreigners Act and detained at Dum Dum jail, has been finally acquitted. He was deported to the Bangladesh border, from where he had originally crossed the border into India.

"Two days ago, the jail authorities told me that Kyaw Moe would be released within two-three days. I was called on Wednesday and told that he was being deported to Bangladesh," Anil Sharma, Defense Counsel of Kyaw Moe, told Mizzima.

Kyaw Moe, alias Nyein Chan, a Burmese journalist based in Bangladesh's capital Dhaka, is a news stringer for Mizzima News, a Burmese independent news agency based in New Delhi. He was arrested by the Indian Border Security Force near the Indo-Bangladesh border, while returning from Kolkata after a journalism training course, organized by Mizzima in September 2007.

On May 26, 2008, after pleading guilty to the terms of the Foreigners Act, Kyaw Moe was sentenced to a term of 250 days in prison.

Despite being a recognized refugee by the Bangladeshi office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), he was charged under the Foreigners Act for illegally crossing the border.

The Solidarity Committee for Burma's Freedom Fighters, a committee formed to advocate on behalf of the 34 Burmese rebels arrested in February 1998 by Indian authorities at Andaman and Nicobar Islands, took up the case of Kyaw Moe and appealed for his early release.

Despite efforts by Mizzima, activists and the UNHCR, Indian authorities continued to detain him and a request by Mizzima for his bail was also turned down.

Although he had completed his jail term, the West Bengal government, however, did not deport him to Burma, where he would face a distinct threat of persecution if he was deported, but sent him back to Bangladesh as requested by the UNHCR, Mizzima and activists.

The activist cum journalist was finally reunited with his wife and three children yesterday, after being separated for over one year.

"I feel like a person, who has won a lottery," Kyaw Moe's excited wife told Mizzima.

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