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Burma: Sentencing of Human Rights Defenders Messrs U Aung Soe, U Maung San and Ko Soe Thu

By Frontline Defenders  •  July 12, 2013

On 8 July 2013, human rights defenders Messrs U Aung SoeU Maung San and Ko Soe Thu were handed additional sentences increasing their prison terms to 11 years and six months in the case of U Aung Soe, and to two years and six months in the case of U Maung San and Ko Soe Thu. U Aung Soe is a member of the Yangon People’s Support Network. All three are human rights defenders who were arrested in the context of their peaceful opposition to a copper mine and human rights violations connected to its operation.

On 8 July 2013, U Aung Soe, U Maung San and Ko Soe Thu were brought before Shwebo Township court where they were handed their additional sentences, which increased the prison terms already handed down on them on 1 June 2013. U Aung Soe was sentenced to a further 10 years of imprisonment under sections 505(b) (intent to cause alarm to the public), 295 and 295(a) (intent to insult a religion), and 333 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt to deter a public servant from his duty) of the Penal Code, bringing his total prison term to 11 years and six months. U Maung San and Ko Soe Thu were both sentenced to an additional two years imprisonment under sections 505(b) and 333, raising their total prison term to two years and six months each.

It is reported that the court proceedings leading up to the 8 July 2013 conviction were marred by violations of international minimum fair trial standards. Mr U Aung Thurein Tun, who is the lawyer of the three human rights defenders, was consistently held back in attempts to gain power of attorney, as a result of which the three human rights defenders were not allowed to meet with their lawyer until their final court hearing when the sentences were handed down. Additionally, prison guards continuously violated lawyer-client confidentiality by listening into the human rights defenders’ conversations with U Aung Thurein Tun and taking photos.

U Aung Soe, U Maung San and Ko Soe Thu were arbitrarily arrested without an arrest warrant on 25 April 2013 after protesting against the Letpadaung Copper Mine in Salingyi township, Sagaing region. It is reported that when local villagers began to work fields that had previously been confiscated, the three human rights defenders were arrested. They spent 30 days in incommunicado detention in an unknown location before being sentenced in a court proceeding behind closed door at Shwebo Township court. U Aung Soe was sentenced to 18 months in prison, while U Maung San and Ko Soe Thu were given prison terms of six months each under section 188 of the Penal Code for disobedience of an order promulgated by a public servant.

Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned by the arbitrary arrest and initial incommunicado detention of the three human rights defenders, and by violation of fair trial guarantees during the court proceedings. Front Line Defenders believes that the arrest and trials against them are solely motivated by their legitimate and peaceful activities in defence of human rights.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Burma to:

  1. Quash the convictions of U Aung Soe, U Maung San and Ko Soe Thu and proceed to their release, as it is believed that their sentencing is solely motivated by their peaceful and legitimate work in defence of human rights;
  2. Ensure that the physical and psychological integrity of the aforementioned human rights defenders is respected, and that their treatment, while in detention, adheres to all those conditions set out in the ‘Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment’, adopted by UN General Assembly resolution 43/173 of 9 December 1988;
  3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Burma are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
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This post is in: Press Release

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