Prisoner releases coincide with Pinheiro visit

Nov 15, 2007 (DVB), The Burmese authorities have released almost 200 prisoners from three prisons today, coinciding with the visit of United Nations special rapporteur Paulo Sergio Pinheiro to the country.

According to National League for Democracy information officer U Han Thar Myint, over fifty detainees were released from Insein prison in Rangoon this morning, including six political prisoners and one death row inmate.

The six people imprisoned for political activities included Thein Naing Oo from Dala township in Rangoon, Pone Aung from Kyauktada, Kyaw Kyaw from North Okklapa, Thet Naung Soe from the Sagaing division capital Monywa and Yee Yee Win from Kyaik Hto in Mon state.

Htun Linn Kyaw, who was arrested after staging a solo demonstration in front of the Rangoon city hall on 14 December 2004, was also released.

A seventh political activist was due to be released, but refused to sign an agreement promising to refrain from political activities and so remains in detention.

In Bago division, nearly 140 people, none of whom were political prisoners, were released from Tharawaddy prison.

Those freed were in the prison for a variety of crimes, including drugs offences.

Nine prisoners were released from Bassein prison in Irrawaddy township, but it is not clear if they were being held for political offences.

The releases come as Pinheiro's visit to the country is drawing to a close.

He was due to visit Insein prison today, and the releases have been seen by some as an attempt by the regime to distract attention from the human rights violations perpetrated in the wake of recent demonstrations.

Tate Naing from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners was sceptical about the regime's motives.

"The SPDC government usually does this kind of thing whenever UN officials are visiting Burma, and they're doing it in the hope of finding a way to ease the international pressure on them," he said.

Reporting by Aye Nai and Naw Say Phaw

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