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A former captain in the Burmese army who was sentenced in August to 10 years in prison on charges of subversion has submitted an appeal at the Supreme Court in Naypyidaw.
Nay Myo Zin’s lawyer, Hla Myo Myint, said that his client had one more chance if this appeal failed. The 36-year-old, who turned to charity work after he left the army, was jailed this year after police discovered documents on his laptop that allegedly defamed the Burmese military.
He carries the distinction of becoming the first political prisoner of the new government, which came to power in March this year and has pledged to break with the Machiavellian polices towards the political opposition of the former junta.
Despite some 1,700 people in jail because of their activisim, however, Burma’s deputy foreign minister Maung Myint told Mizzima at the weekend that the government’s position is that, “There are no political prisoners or prisoners of conscience in our country”.
Hla Myo Myint said his client deserves to be released, and claims that his trial was heavily politicised and mired in misconduct by judges, whom legal groups say lack independence from the government.
Two months ago Nay Myo Zin suffered a fall in his cell in Rangoon’s Insein prison and fractured his lumbar vertebrae. Despite being treated at the prison hospital, doctors there warned he may become paralysed in his lower body should he not receive proper medical attention at a hospital outside.
His mother, Khin Thi, who visited him a week ago, said: “He was carried into the [visitor room] by four people and left lying on two tables joined together.” She added that treatment outside of the hospital had been denied, and he was only being given painkillers. He is also experiencing problems with his stomach, she said.
Doctors in Insein had said last month they would operate on him, but his family and lawyer, who have repeatedly lobbied the government to release him in order that he can receive medical care, say the facilities inside the prison are not fit for such an operation.
An official from the government’s Prison Administration Department admitted last year that there were, in total, 109 medical staff assigned to all the prisons, equating to one for every 8000 inmates. Only 32 of these were fully trained.
Prisoners are often forced to bribe medical staff in order to receive treatment; the majority who cannot have to rely on medicine supplied by visiting family members.