Jailed activist ‘signs empty paper’

An activist serving a 58-year sentence in Rangoon’s Insein prison has been allegedly forced into making a confession that resulted in an additional decade being tacked onto his jail term.

Kyaw Zwa Linn, 25, a member of the banned All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF), has been held in prison since September 2008 after being convicted on a raft of charges, including possession of explosives. His family only learnt of the additional sentencing after word was passed from a source visiting a fellow political inmate in Insein prison last week.

“Kyaw Zwa Linn was forced to give his fingerprint on an empty paper,” the man said. “This is worrying for political prisoners’ security – they don’t know what [the authorities] will do next with those [fingerprints].”

It is not clear however what confession he is alleged to have made, although the charge and 10-year sentence also comes under the Explosives Act and relates to the same incident.

It was two separate explosives charges that originally landed Kyaw Zwa Linn with 18-year and 20-year sentences in 2008, although two years later, and on two more charges, that was brought to a total of 58 years. The recent sentencing means he will not be released until 2076.

Lawyer Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min, who in the past has represented a number of political activists, said that it against Burmese law to give multiple sentences under one accusation, adding also that a signed confession should not carry any significant weight in a Burmese court.

“The law doesn’t give police approval to use a confession with the signature or fingerprint of the defendant against him or her in a trial. Neither are they allowed to use testimony by police officers,” he said, added that the case should be dismissed.

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