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680,000 signatures delivered to UN chief

June 17, 2009 (DVB), A petition carrying nearly 680,000 signatures has been delivered to the UN Secretary General demanding that he make the release of political prisoners in Burma a personal priority.

Burma currently holds upwards of 2,100 political prisoners, including journalists, activists, politicians and lawyers.

The petition, signed by signatories in around 220 countries and territories, is part of a campaign to highlight the ongoing repression faced by opposition groups and individuals in Burma.

Last week a member of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, whose leader Aung San Suu Kyi is currently on trial, died in prison from a blood disease.

And on Monday, five NLD members being held in Rangoon's notorious Insein prison, where Suu Kyi is currently detained, were moved into solitary confinement.

"We know that a lot of political prisoners are dying in prison, we need the United Nations to take action before many more die," said Bo Kyi, sectretay of Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma.

"Without action, we expect many more to die."

Conditions in Burmese prisons are dire, with prisoners often suffering from preventable diseases and subject to torture at the hands of prison officials.

The 28-year-old leader of the All Burma Monks Alliance, U Gambira, who is serving a 69-year sentence following his role in the September 2007 protests, was on Monday said to be suffering from migraines and had been tortured by guards.

A number of other high-profile political prisoners, including the comedian Zarganar, and 88 Generation Student leader Min Ko Naing, are reportedly in poor health and frequently denied healthcare.

Reporting by Francis Wade


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