Poet Maung Saungkha not among this week's released prisoners

Poet Maung Saungkha not among this week's released prisoners

The week has ended with a dozen more political prisoners freed, but Maung Saungkha, a poet standing trial for allegedly insulting former President Thein Sein, was not among them, his lawyer said Friday.

“Officials from the relevant department didn’t come and withdraw the case, so the court scheduled another hearing on the 25th,” said Robert Sann Aung.

He added, however, that he expected his client to be freed in the near future. “This is a political case, so it’s included among those that our people’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, said would be withdrawn. We just have to wait,” he said.

Since taking power earlier this month, Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy-led government has released more than 200 prisoners of conscience, including a dozen this week.

On Thursday, the freed prisoners included a lawyer, nine labor rights activists, and two students who pulled down the national flag at a college and replaced it with the student union “fighting peacock” flag.

Zaw Win, the lawyer, had served one year and eight months behind bars for a May 2014 solo protest in front of the courthouse in Pyin Oo Lwin, Mandalay Division. He was greeted by supporters, including some of the farmers he was representing in land confiscation cases, upon his release from Mandalay’s Ohbo Prison at around 4 pm yesterday.

In Rangoon, the cases against nine activists who had been charged with inciting unrest for leading protests by garment factory workers in the city’s Shwepyithar Industrial Zone were dropped by the Yankin Township Court.

The nine activists — Zarmani, Kyaw Lin Tun (a.k.a. Moe Hein), Pyae Phyo Aung (a.k.a. Naung Naung), Min Zaw Htay, Aung Ko Ko, Aye Sandar Win, Yamin, Sandar Myint and Aye Moe Khine — had been held in custody since their arrest last May.

Soe Hlaing, a second-year student at Monywa Technical University, and Zin Ko Thant, a student of Burmese literature at Yadanapon University, were also released yesterday. The pair were being held at Myingyan Prison in Mandalay Division.

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“Now we are free. The cases against us have been dropped. So now we going back to prison, and after checking in at the prison, we will be free to go,” Zin Ko Thant said from Myingyan Township Court on Thursday.

The two had been charged under the National Flag Act for raising the student union’s peacock flag at Myingyan Degree College. They were arrested on 27 April of last year and were detained at the prison for nearly one year.

It is unclear how many other political prisoners remain behind bars, but according to Robert Sann Aung, their number includes at least some connected with the Karen National Union who are still detained in Rangoon’s Insein Prison.

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