Myanmar: Long sentences for democracy advocates

Courts in military-ruled Myanmar delivered a devastating blow Tuesday to the nation’s pro-democracy movement, sentencing two dozen activists to harsh prison terms that will keep them behind bars long past a 2010 election.

Associated Press

Fourteen members of the Generation 88 Students group were sentenced to prison terms of 65 years each, and a labor activist, Su Su Nway, was sentenced to 12 1/2 years. Ten people allied with Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy got jail terms of eight to 24 years.

Many of the activists were involved in protests last year that led to huge pro-democracy demonstrations that the army put down by force. According to U.N. estimates, at least 31 people were killed and thousands of demonstrators were detained. Many fled the country or went underground.

Most of the sentences were handed down in closed-court sessions. The lengths of the terms suggest the junta will pay little heed to calls from the U.N. and many Western nations to make its self-styled transition to democracy more fair and inclusive.

Amnesty International said the court actions were “a powerful reminder that Myanmar’s military government is ignoring calls by the international community to clean up its human rights record.”

“This sentencing sends a clear signal that it will not tolerate views contrary to its own,” the group said in a statement.

Amnesty and other international human rights groups say the junta holds more than 2,100 political prisoners, up sharply from nearly 1,200 in June 2007 — before the pro-democracy demonstrations.

The prisoners include Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest — as she has been on and off since 1989.

The European Union said Monday that the multiparty elections scheduled for 2010 will be seen as illegitimate unless the junta frees all political prisoners. Suu Kyi’s party won the most seats in a 1990 election, but the military refused to let it take power.

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081111/ap_on_re_as/as_
myanmar_dissidents;_ylt=AtWKjoaKZ6XTtqIqZHeAuoOs0NUE

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