04/08/2016, 09.53
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Aung San Suu Kyi: Political prisoners will be free as soon as possible

In her first act as "State Councillor," the Democratic leader promises freedom to some 500 activists and students. Today, is the beginning of amnesty for the Burmese New Year and hundreds of non-political prisoners are leaving prisons.

Yangon (AsiaNews / Agencies) – Marking the Burmese New Year "prisoners, activists and students who are serving sentences in prison will be released as soon as possible". This was announced yesterday evening by Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), after one week in government in Myanmar. The Nobel Laureate (who was also a political prisoner for many years) has defined the release of nearly 500 people in prison for political reasons as a "priority".

The decision is Suu Kyi’s first act in her new role as a "State Councillor", a new charge personally  created that guarantees powers similar to those of a prime minister.

The document - published by the Office of the President and signed by the Lady. - analyzes the three strategies with which the NLD can liberate prisoners of conscience. According to Articles 204 (a) of the 2008 Constitution and 401 (a) of the Criminal Code the president (Htin Kyaw, Suu Kyi loyalist) has the "power to grant forgiveness" to detainees. Article 204 (b) of the Constitution, however, suggests that the president can grant amnesty in accordance with the National Defense and Security Council, the executive body largely in the hands of the military. The final way is through Article 494 of the Criminal Code, according to which the government can remove a prisoner’s sentence through the law offices of his city.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP, among the most important groups of dissidents in Myanmar) there are 100 political prisoners in the country who have already received a judgment and about 400 whose trial is still ongoing. In the latter group there are also students imprisoned last year for having protested against the education reform.

Some analysts, however, there is the problem of defining what the political prisoners are. It is not yet clear whether they include insurgents of ethnic minorities, who has been fighting the central government.

Amnesties ahead of the New Year (falling next week) have even been granted by the military junta in recent years, when thousands of prisoners were released from prison. None of them, however, was in jail for political reasons.

This morning the first groups of non-political prisoners began leaving prison. Thirty were released in Mandalay, another 29 in Sittwe. Another 100 were greeted by a cheering crowd outside the Insein Prison in Yangon.

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