While the Burmese government released 69 political prisoners on Friday, a Myitkyina court on the same day sentenced four Kachin Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to terms of two years in prison for being in contact with the outlawed Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
According to their lawyer, Myitkyina Township and District Court charged six IDPs in June 2012 under the controversial Unlawful Associations Act. On Friday the court sentenced Lahpai Gun, Brang Yone, Zaw Bauk and La Ring to two years while Karyar Nandar and Lamar Aung were set free. Those sentenced, with the exception of Zaw Bauk, are also due to face charges under the Explosions Act.
Speaking to DVB on Saturday, the IDPs’ lawyer Mar Khar said the court neglected to consider his testimony and his clients’ argument that they never made contact with the KIA.
“In summarizing, the judge said that the accused men did not deny contacting the KIA,” he said. “In fact, my clients refuted all claims that they had contact with the KIA and our witnesses backed this up. This sentence is totally unfair.”
The lawyer also alleged that during interrogation, the Kachin refugees were tortured by security forces.
“These high-ranking officers’ ignorance of human rights and flagrant abuse of the law could impact the peace process,” he said.
The Asian Human Rights Commission lists 36 cases of people being arrested and tortured by security forces in Kachin State in 2012 for allegedly having “unlawful” contact with the KIA.
Similarly, another Kachin IDP, Lahtaw Brang Shawng, was sentenced to two years in prison under the Unlawful Associations Act in July 2012 but was freed as part of a presidential amnesty in June.