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U Thein Sein Government Should Drop the Grave Charges Against Mahn Nyein Maung

By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners - Burma  •  March 9, 2012

Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), AAPP-B, requests the U Thein Sein government to drop the spurious and trumped-up charges recently brought against a prominent Karen leader. Mahn Nyein Maung, a member of the Karen National Union Central Committee, is currently under trial facing charges under High Treason (122/1 of the penal code) and the Unlawful Associations Act (17/1). Both charges carry heavy sentences that are unwarranted in Mahn Nyein Maung’’s case: High Treason carries a sentence of life imprisonment and the death penalty and the Unlawful Associations Act carries a sentence of 2 to 7 year imprisonment. The court will deliver its verdict on 13 March 2012.

The inflated charges against Mahn Nyein Maung are just the latest in a string of human rights violations brought against him since his unlawful arrest in July 2011 while visiting China. In Kunming, Yunnan Province, he was arrested by Chinese officials and deported back to Rangoon where he was taken into custody. From July 2011 Mahn Nyein Maung was considered a victim of an enforced disappearance. Urgent requests from his family members, colleagues, and loved ones as to his whereabouts and safety went unheeded by state authorities. That Mahn Nyein Maung was cut off from the outside world and taken outside the protection of the law is a grievous human rights violation.

On September 27, 2011, Mahn Nyein Maung was sentenced to 6 months under section 13/1 of the Immigration Act and Article 468 for having a forged travel document. On the 2nd of February 2012, Mahn Nyein Maung appeared in Insein Prison Court under renewed charges of High Treason and under the Unlawful Association Act. This further sentencing of Mahn Nyein Maung has caused him “mental torture” as he was told he would be granted his freedom as a peace offering if he aided in the ceasefire negotiations with the Karen National Union. Though Mahn Nyein Maung agreed, the authorities retracted on their word and cruelly punished him with additional charges. This treatment of Mahn Nyein Maung infringes on his most fundamental rights as no human life should be subject to barter or have their freedom compromised.

Currently, the government has undertaken positive steps towards national reconciliation by offering peace talks, holding ceasefire meetings, and signing preliminary ceasefire agreements with numerous ethnic armed groups. In the anniversary speech made by President U Thein Sein, the President mentioned the importance of having an inclusive political process, national reconciliation and constitutional amendments. Mutual recognition, respect and trust are urgently needed initial steps for the national reconciliation process. The President must now speak power to his words by dropping the charges against Mahn Nyein Maung, and conferring upon him his basic rights as a human and detainee, which include a right to a free and fair trial.

To create mutual recognition, respect and trust, the government should recognize the political status of ethnic detainees and unconditionally release them, as well as erase their criminal records. We, members of AAPP, genuinely believe that the peace building process can be done smoothly and speedily in doing so. Continuing to hold Mahn Nyein Maung behind bars and making false claims to the media about his potential freedom is an act that seriously disrupts trust among the ethnic minorities and will have a harmful impact on national reconciliation.

Furthermore, we, members of AAPP, request the U Thein Sein government to implement the inclusive political process and national reconciliation process by unconditionally releasing political prisoners still behind bars.

AAPP also urges the international community to convince the U Thein Sein government to drop the serious charges brought against Mahn Nyein Maung, and ensure his trial proceeds in a way that respects Mahn Nyein Maung’’s rights as a detainee and is bounded by the rule of law. At a bare minimum, Mahn Nyein Maung’’s trial must take place in an open court, not in a prison.

The President still holds enormous influence on court proceedings in Burma. With enough international pressure, there is still enough time to show President U Thein Sein that the manner in which Mahn Nyein Maung is being treated is un-democratic and infringes upon his most basic universal freedoms.

For more information:

Tate Naing (Secretary): +66 (0) 81 287 8751
Aung Khaing Min +66 (0) 88 420 4710

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This post is in: Press Release

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