Detained US citizen moved to 'dog cells'

Dec 22, 2009 (DVB), The Burmese-born US citizen detained in Rangoon's Insein prison has been moved to the prison's notorious 'dog cells' where inmates are held in solitary confinement, often in appalling conditions.

Kyaw Zaw Lwin, also known as Nyi Nyi Aung, was moved following his nine-day hunger strike, which ended on 15 December, his aunt told DVB after visiting him Sunday.

"Now he is spending time alone in a small cell in the dog ward," said Khin Khin Swe. "He is not allowed to talk to anyone or go anywhere apart from two outing sessions a day."

She added that US embassy diplomats and Kyaw Zaw Lwin's lawyer, Nyan Win, were present during his court appearance last Friday, but were not allowed to talk to him. Khin Khin Swe believed this was punishment for the 40-year-old's hunger strike.

"He asked for the embassy to make it possible to see him and the lawyers to meet with him before 29 December [the date set for the next court hearing]," she said.

The US embassy in Rangoon told Su Su Kyi in September that he had shown signs of having been tortured whilst in detention.

Kyaw Zaw Lwin, a former activist with the All Burma Students' Democratic Front (ABSDF) who fled Burma to the US in 1993, was arrested upon arrival at Rangoon airport on 3 September. His is being tried on charges of fraud and forgery, which together carry a maximum sentence of 17 years.

There had been initial speculation that judges would try him on terrorism charges, but these have been dropped.

According to Bo Kyi, joint-secretary of the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP), who himself spent time in Insein's dog ward during his seven-year sentence, the cells usually measure 10 feet by 10 feet and little light enters.

"The dog cells are very isolated. Sometimes guards do not allow inmates to shower for two weeks," he said. There will be many restrictions on him. Depending on the situation, prisoners can be put in the punishment [stress] positions, but we don't know if this applies to him."

The US embassy has said that it continues to pressure for consular access to Kyaw Zaw Lwin, but so far the government has not responded. The last time an embassy official met with him was on 3 December.

Reporting by Aye Nai and Francis Wade

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