Activists sentenced 'without evidence'

Jan 14, 2010 (DVB), Three Burmese opposition activists were sentenced yesterday to three years' with hard labour, despite the prosecution being unable to provide any palpable evidence for their charges, a lawyer said.

The three National League for Democracy (NLD) party members were charged under the Unlawful Associations Act for allegedly accepting money from a member of the banned NLD-Liberated Areas (NLD-LA) party, Eva.

Lawyer Kyaw Ho said that the trial judge, Tin Swe Lin, had given the three, Shwe Gyo, Ma Cho (also known as Myint Myint San) and Sein Hlaing, harsh sentences despite a lack of solid evidence.

"There were neither eye-witnesses nor paperwork evidence that [the three] had accepted money from Eva," said Kyaw Ho. "We cannot accept such a ruling on legal grounds and we are preparing to appeal."

The three were arrested in March last year and have been kept in detention since, although Kyaw Ho said the time already spent in detention will not be subtracted from their sentence.

"There is an official court guideline stating that the amount of time a person has spent in detention during the trial has to be subtracted from the prison term," he said, adding that this would also be appealed.

There had been prior speculation that the three were being targeted for their work in helping political prisoners, although there was no mention of this from Kyaw Ho.

Several NLD members reported last month that they were being forced by Burmese intelligence officers to divulge details about their families and jobs, reportedly on instruction from senior government.

Others were reportedly being photographed and told to fill out questionnaires, although the NLD sent out a directive to members urging them not to comply.

Analysts believe pressure against the NLD and other opposition groups is likely to increase this year as the ruling junta prepares for its first elections since 1990, when it ignored a landslide victory by the NLD.

Reporting by Khin Hnin Htet

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