Burma to free Briton jailed for anti-government protest

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James Mawdsley, the Briton serving a 17-year sentence in Burma for handing out pro-democracy leaflets, is to be freed and returned home.

James Mawdsley, the Briton serving a 17-year sentence in Burma for handing out pro-democracy leaflets, is to be freed and returned home.

The Burmese ambassador told the Foreign Office Mr Mawdsley, 27, would be released from Keng Tung prison and deported. He was sentenced in August last year and spent more than 400 days in solitary confinement.

His imprisonment and beatings he said he received caused diplomatic ructions with Britain and prompted international criticism of Burma's military regime. Mr Mawdsley said that once he was attacked by 15 men with truncheons for writing "peace" on his cell wall.

A week ago the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said that he was being held illegally and asked the Rangoon regime urgently to "remedy the situation".

Last night Mr Mawdsley's father, David, said: "He may not even know himself yet, but I feel total elation. There's been a lot of pressure on Burma recently and there was no justification for keeping him in jail." James had been arrested twice previously by the Burmese.

It will take several days for him to get home, as Keng Tung jail is in a remote part of the country 400 miles from Rangoon, the capital.

His mother, Diana, has been in Burma since last month but was only allowed to see him in the past few days.

The Burma Action Group said that it was relieved by the release but there should be no reduction of efforts by the international community in the struggle to bring democracy to Burma. A spokeswoman said:"Things are as bad now as they ever have been. James leaves 1,500 political prisoners behind."

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