Burese activists jailed for marking pro-democracy uprising

YANGON, Aug 17 – Five activists have been sentenced to 2½ years in prison for marching on the 20th anniversary of pro-democracy protests that were crushed by the Myanmar’s military rulers, an opposition party official said yesterday.

The sentencing Friday came two days ahead of a visit by UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari, who is promoting democratic reforms in Myanmar.

The five were arrested in the northwestern state of Rakhine on Aug. 8 after a peaceful march marking the 1988 protests by more than 1 million people which were brutally crushed by the military.

The activists were convicted of unlawful assembly and creating public alarm, said Thein Naing, a senior official in Rakhine of the National League for Democracy.

All five were members of the league, which is led by detained Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Thein Naing said the verdict came “without giving enough time for the defendants to hire a defense lawyer.”

The five were among a group of 48 young protesters who marched peacefully in the town of Taunggok on the day of the anniversary and were arrested. All but the five were later released.

Thein Naing said the chairman of the league in Rakhine, Nyi Pu, was arrested last Tuesday and several other activists have been detained recently, but the reasons for the arrests are not known.

Gambari’s visit will be the fourth since the military junta violently suppressed anti-government protests last September, sparking a global outcry.

During his last visit in March he was allowed to meet Suu Kyi but did not hold talks with any senior leaders of the ruling military council. The military has ruled the Southeast Asia nation since 1962 and is widely criticized for extensive human rights abuses. – AP

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