Fresh charge for US detainee in Burma

Nov 9, 2009 (DVB), A new charge of possessing foreign currency has been leveled at the Burmese-born United States' citizen currently standing trial in Burma, his lawyer said.

Kyaw Zaw Lwin, also known as Nyi Nyi Aung, is already on trial in a Rangoon courtroom on charges of fraud.

He was arrested in early September upon arrival at Rangoon International Airport, with initial speculation that the Burmese government had linked him to a Rangoon bomb plot.

State media in Burma also accused him of having links to the All Burma Student Democratic Front (ABSDF), which played a key role in the 1988 uprising.

ABSDF leader Than Khe confirmed that Kyaw Zaw Lwin had once been a member of the ABSDF, although he had had no contact with the group for some time.

"After hearing the prosecutors' statement, the court's judge asked us if we would be ready to go to a hearing [for the new charge] by [Friday] evening," said lawyer Kyi Win. "But we told him we were not ready yet as we haven't read the complaint by the prosecutors."

The judge has reappointed the next hearing for Friday, along with the hearing for other charges Kyaw Zaw Lwin faces, his lawyer said.

"We will go to the court again on Monday and make a request to the judge to get a hold of the case file's copy and then will inform Nyi Nyi Aung about the charge," Kyi Win said. "He had only found out that a new charge has been leveled but didn't know what it was about."

The defendant was last week allowed to see his relatives for the first time since he was detained in Rangoon's Insein prison on 3 September, a family member told DVB.

The permission was finally granted despite numerous attempts by his family to meet with him since his arrest.

The meeting with his two aunts also coincided with the arrival on Tuesday of the most senior-level US delegation to visit Burma in 14 years.

His aunt in September told DVB that US embassy staff who had visited him in prison reported that he had been denied food for eight days and showed signs of being beaten.

Both Kyaw Zaw Lwin's cousin and mother are serving prison sentences on charges related to the September 2007 monk-led uprising.

Reporting by Khin Hnin Htet

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