Young DVB reporter ‘tortured daily’

A young reporter arrested following the Rangoon bombings in April last year and sentenced to eight years in prison is being tortured on a daily basis, a prison source claims.

Sithu Zeya, 21, was last week moved to an isolation cell in Rangoon’s Insein prison after apparently failing to abide by prison customs.

“He is taken out of his cell every 15 minutes and forced to do squats and crawls for not knowing the prison customs,” said the source, adding that this had stretched over nine days and was being sanctioned by the prison’s deputy chief, Thein Myint.

Seventeen other political prisoners in Burma’s most notorious jail have called on authorities to cease ill treatment of Sithu Zeya, a DVB reporter who was arrested after being caught photographing the aftermath of the bombings.

Continued refusals by prison staff to accede to the requests have resulted in demonstrations by the 17 political prisoners, who share the same ward as Sithu Zeya.

“The political prisoners…are now refusing to stand to attention, a daily routine in the prison every dusk and dawn,” said the source. “If their demands are not met in the next three days, they will shave their heads in protest, which is against prison regulations. They have informed the prison authorities that if shaving their heads doesn’t work, then they will go on hunger strike.”

Torture is rife throughout Burmese prisons, particularly among wardens looking to extract information from political prisoners.

Sithu’s father, Maung Maung Zeya, was arrested alongside his son on 23 April and is still awaiting a verdict. He has reportedly been told that he could walk free if he passes over information about other DVB reporters working inside Burma.

According to their lawyer, Aung Thein, the 21-year-old confessed to his charges of illegal border crossing and holding ties to an unlawful association whilst under torture.

Meanwhile, political prisoners in Insein’s Ward 5 are calling on authorities to look into issues such as lack of blankets, poor food rations and poor medical assistance.

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