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Former political prisoner Nyi Nyi Lwin — better known as Ashin Gambira, the Buddhist monk who spearheaded the 2007 Saffron Revolution — was sentenced today by a court in Mandalay to six months in prison with hard labour on immigration charges.
Mandalay’s Maha Aungmyay Township Court on Tuesday found Gambira guilty of illegal border crossing under Article 13(1) of the Immigration Act.
Gambira, sentenced to lengthy prison terms following his arrest in 2007, is known to be suffering from psychological trauma. In recent years, he had been making cross-border visits to neighbouring Thailand to seek treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, and has been detained several time by Burmese border officials.
In January of this year, he was in the central Burmese city of Mandalay to obtain a new passport when the police detained him at a local guesthouse, accusing him of crossing the border illegally.
“I have just been sentenced to six months in prison with hard labour under the Immigration Act. I was unjustly detained and unfairly sentenced in a bogus trial and this is upsetting,” he said, speaking to DVB by phone following today’s sentencing hearing.
“The judicial sector in Burma is crippling — there is no prevalence of truth,” he said. “It is also evident that the government officials on the ground are not following the direction and policies laid out by the new government.”
His sister Ma Lwin told DVB the family was expecting a different outcome, as they had hoped that the court would order his release at today’s hearing, in line with the National League for Democracy-led government’s policy of ending detention for political prisoners.
“Judging from the trial proceeding, he should have been released. He is a sick man and needs medical treatment, so he must be released immediately,” said Ma Lwin.
“As the new government announced their new policy to have no political prisoner behind the bars, we were expecting he would be released today. Our family absolutely denounces and condemns this sentencing.”
Today’s sentence will include time already served, meaning that he will be required to remain in prison for another three months.