September 5, 2008

Thirty-five people were dragged into a court in Rangoon in handcuffs for a third day today. They are charged with hundreds of offences, mostly for their alleged involvement in the peaceful pro-democracy uprising in September last year.

As charges were read out today Min Ko Naing, leader of the 88 Generation Students, who make up thirteen of the 35 on trial, made a speech condemning the so-called trial, and ridiculing the number of offences they were being charged with. ‘There are more charges than would be made against the terrorist Osama Bin Laden’, he stated. Some activists could face 15 separate charges, and face spending the rest of their lives in jail.

For a second day, one of the lawyers for the defendants was barred from entering the court. He had been vocal in demanding that the trial be conducted according to the law, which allows members of the media and public to attend the trial. Only state media have been allowed to attend. International observers are also banned.

“The trial is a farce,” said Wai Hnin, Political Prisoners Campaigner at Burma Campaign UK, and daughter of Mya Aye, of the 88 Generation activists on trial. “They have committed no crimes, but the regime is scared of them and wants to keep them locked up forever. Why is the United Nations silent even though the Security Council called for the release of political prisoners?”

The number of political prisoners in Burma has almost doubled in the past year, totalling 2,056.

All hopes for the release of the prisoners are now pinned on a visit to Burma in December by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. The release of all political prisoners is at the top of his agenda, and will be the benchmark by which the success of his visit will be judged.

“Ban Ki-Moon must secure the release of all prisoners as the first step towards genuine talks and a transition to democracy,” said Wai Hnin. “Anything less will mean his visit will be a failure.”

For more information contact Wai Hnin or Mark Farmaner, Director of the Burma Campaign UK, on 020 7324 4710.


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