Sat, Sep 19, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Myanmar releases 600 Insein inmates as part of amnesty


Myanmar authorities yesterday were to release an estimated 600 inmates, including some political prisoners, from Yangon’s notorious Insein Prison as part of an amnesty for 7,114 inmates nationwide.

Insein authorities invited journalists to witness the release of a first batch of 359 prisoners. Altogether, 600 were scheduled to be freed yesterday.

“About 250 prisoners detained for security reasons would be free out of 7,114 prisoners,” an official from the Prison Department told reporters, while insisting that there were no political prisoners in Myanmar’s prisons.

Myanmar has an estimated 2,100 political prisoners in its jails, according to Human Rights Watch and other human rights groups. Western democracies have repeatedly demanded that political prisoners be released.

The junta’s most famous prisoner is opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, 64, who has spent 14 of the past 20 years under house detention.

A special court set up in Insein Prison last month found Aung San Suu Kyi guilty of breaking the terms of her last six-year term of house detention by allowing US national John William Yettaw to swim to her lakeside home-cum-prison in Yangon, albeit as an uninvited guest.

The court initially sentenced Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, to three years in prison with hard labor, which was later commuted to 18 months under house arrest.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s legal team has appealed to the Yangon District Court, which heard its arguments yesterday.

A decision is expected on Oct. 2, lawyer Nyan Win said.

Prison amnesties have been held in the past to mark Sept. 18, 1988, the day that General Saw Maung seized power and set up the State Law and Order Restoration Council, the military regime that thereafter cracked down on mass pro-democracy demonstrations, leaving an estimated 3,000 people dead.

Among the political prisoners released from Insein was former student activist Win Yin, who was arrested 21 years ago for participating in the 1988 anti-military demonstrations.

Win Yin, now 56, had four more months of his sentence to serve.

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