09/12/2014, 00.00
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Burmese activist sentenced to 11 years in prison for anti-government protests

The 52 year old Htin Kyaw was indicted in all 12 divisions of Yangon, in which he had marched earlier this year as part of a protest campaign against the executive. He is charged with "disturbing public order" and for having "handed out leaflets." Human rights activists call the ruling a "farce."

Yangon (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A Burmese activist was sentenced to at least 11 years in prison for taking part in a protest march against the government in the streets of Yangon, the commercial capital of Myanmar. But his sentence could be lengthened as he is still awaiting the verdict from a separate trial. The case of Htin Kyaw is further confirmation that, in spite of President Thein Sein's promises, the country continues the practice of arbitrary arrest and detention for crimes of opinion and thought.

This trend was denounced in recent days by a group pro human rights. The sentence against the dissident has made him a symbol: in spite of the much vaunted political, economic and social reforms of the semi-civil executive (in office since 2011 after decades of military dictatorship) dissent is still punished in a systematic manner.

Htin Kyaw, 52, was indicted in all 12 divisions of Yangon, in which he marched earlier this year as part of a protest campaign against the government. Yesterday came the latest in a long series of sentences, for "having handed out leaflets" against the executive. Spontaneous demonstrations of dissent are still punished with extreme force and a special permission is required from the authorities before people can protest in public.

Human rights activists have strongly criticized the indictment of Htin Kyaw for "disturbing public order"; in the past he had been convicted for having demonstrated against the government, but was released last year as part of an amnesty. He has been held in jail since May 5 last.

A spokesman for Amnesty International reports that Htin Kyaw was only expressing his own opinion, without violating any law. "The relentless efforts of the Burmese authorities to silence critical voices - activists denounce - must cease immediately" and the accusations against him are "farcical".

On several occasions in recent months the activist movement Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), which has kept a detailed history of political detainees in Myanmar, said that "arbitrary arrests" and the limitation of "civil and political liberties" is still the norm. In addition, the ongoing arrests have effectively disavowed President Thein Sein who had declared that all political prisoners would be released by the end of 2013.


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