Burma junta charges leading protesters

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Burma's military junta has charged 10 activists detained during last year's fuel protests, including top dissident Min Ko Naing, and they could face up to seven years in prison, legal sources said yesterday.

The 10, most of whom were leaders of a 1988 student-led uprising suppressed bloodily by the army, are accused of violating Burma's Printing and Publishing Act.

It was not clear why they were not facing more serious charges of sedition for organising small protests in Rangoon last August against a sudden spike in fuel prices and deteriorating living standards.

"They had not heard about the charges when I last visited them at Insein Central Jail last Wednesday," Ko Aung, younger brother of detainee Ko Ko Gyi, told Reuters.

Lawyer Aung Thein said the group would be likely to go on trial soon at a closed hearing inside the former capital's notorious Insein prison.

Ko Aung said the health of the detainees was "not so bad", although most of them were on some form of medication due to the effects of many years in jail after the 1988 uprising.

Burma has been under military rule since 1962, and even before the crackdown on last year's fuel price protests, more than 1,100 people were behind bars on account of their political or religious beliefs.

Amnesty International said last week 700 people arrested after last year's demonstrations, which grew into pro-democracy marches led by Buddhist monks, remained locked up.

More than 80 were unaccounted for and were probably "the victims of enforced disappearance", the London-based human rights group said.