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Taunggok NLD protestors charged and released

Feb 7, 2008 (DVB), Two National League for Democracy members who were arrested for staging a small protest have been charged and released, and claim they were beaten while in detention.

NLD members Ko Than Htay and Ko Zaw Naing, from Taunggok township, Arakan state, were arrested on 22 January after they rode around the township on bicycles shouting out pro-democracy slogans.

They were charged with violating movement restrictions, despite not being subject to any such restrictions, and released by Taunggok township court on the afternoon of 5 February.

Zaw Naing said that the judge told them they were charged with movement restriction violation because it was a minor offence that would not incur a heavy penalty.

"The judge said we could be released without any harsh punishments for this offence, whereas if we were charged with political offences we could face 10 to 20 years in prison," Zaw Naing said.

"But we insisted that they charge us for our protest activities."

Zaw Naing said the township police chief, judge, and township authorities had held a meeting and decided to let them go, but now they have been given real movement restrictions and have to sign in at the local police station every month.

They are also required to inform the authorities in advance if they plan to travel.

Both men said they had been beaten and mistreated by the township chairman, police chief and deputy police chief during their interrogation.

Zaw Naing said he was repeatedly beaten by the police chief at the township Peace and Development Council office and again when he had been transferred to the police station.

"I explained to them that we protested because we are hungry and have no food, but they were not pleased with that answer, and so they beat us until we gave them the answer they wanted," Zaw Naing said.

"They beat me up so badly that my son could not even recognise me when he visited me in detention to bring me food."

Than Htay said that he was also treated badly during interrogation.

"The township chairman kicked me when I was in the township PDC office and asked me how many dollars I had been given to stage the protest," Than Htay said.

"I told him that I did it of my own free will because we have no food, and that I did not get any money from anyone," he said.

"At the police station, about seven police officers, including deputy police chief Maung San, handcuffed me and beat me until I was nearly deaf."

The two men said they would continue to protest in future if they thought it was necessary.

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw


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