Jailed Briton released by Burmese

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The Independent Online
A BRITISH student arrested in Burma while campaigning on human rights and sentenced to five years in prison was yesterday dramatically released.

James Mawdsley is due to arrive back at Heathrow Airport this morning, having been released from Insein jail in Rangoon - one of the most notorious prisons in south-east Asia.

His release - by the military junta known as the State Peace and Development Council - coincides with the 10th anniversary of the brutal crushing of the pro-democracy movement. Around 10,000 people were killed in the initial crackdown. Since then, hundreds of thousands more have been tortured, imprisoned and executed.

After James was arrested last April, his mother, Diana, went to work at a Thai clinic on the Burmese border to try and be as close as possible to her son. Last night, speaking from the clinic, she told The Independent: "I am delighted, I can at last breathe more easily.

"The worst thing has been thinking of him in a tiny little cell, all alone for 23 hours every day. That would crack even the strongest-willed person. I saw him in prison six weeks ago and he looked very thin, but he was trying to be strong."

Mr Mawdsley's father, David, was travelling back to Britain with his son via Bangkok. His father went to Rangoon earlier this week to try to arrange an appeal, though with little hope of success.

Mr Mawdsley, 25, a student, was arrested last April in the Shan province - home to one of Burma's many ethnic groups. He was caught with pro-democracy leaflets, which he had been distributing.

Last year he was arrested after chaining himself to railings in Rangoon and spraying pro-democracy slogans. On that occasion he was deported after 29 hours in prison.

Foreign Office sources last night said no reason had been given for the release, which had come as a surprise.

n The Burmese Action Group will hold a demonstration tomorrow morning at 11am at Queens Walk, on the south bank of the Thames in London.