'Activists' to serve up to 55 years

Additional sentences of up to 10 years have been given to seven people accused of being behind a spate of bombings, and who are already serving decades in prison.

The five men and two women learnt of their fate on Friday last week following a hearing at Eastern Rangoon Divisional Court. Six of them will serve an additional seven years, while one man, Kyaw Zwa Lin, was handed a decade.

All were charged under the Explosives Act, one of the three charges originally used to imprison them in 2008 when police allegedly discovered them with gunpowder. For this they received sentences of between 20 and 38 years.

Then last year these were extended by a decade after all were found guilty of assisting in the 2004 bombing at Zawgyi House Restaurant in Rangoon and the bombing at the Panorama Hotel in Rangoon in 2005.

Last week’s sentencing for involvement in the Shwe Mann Thu bus terminal bombings in 2005 brings to more than 50 years the longest of the jail terms they will serve. Lawyer Kyaw Ho said however that there was no strong evidence to support the most recent sentencing.

“There was no witness, evidence or exhibit whatsoever to prove their connection with the bombing,” he said. “The only thing used against them in the trial was the confession they gave to police during interrogation, which does not qualify as evidence.”

Similar complaints had been levelled by the defence team last year, particularly over the explosives charge that Kyaw Ho said should require testimonies from “the police’s Criminal Investigation Department and chemical specialists”.

Whether any political motive was behind the sentencing is unclear, but the group is alleged to have held links to the banned All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF), a prominent activist group born from the 1988 mass student uprising. That allegation earned them charges under the Unlawful Associations Act.

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