Burmese court rejects appeal by jailed British democracy activist

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The Independent Online

A court in northern Burma has rejected an appeal by a British democracy activist against a 17-year sentence he is serving in a prison in the country's eastern Shan State, legal sources said Saturday.

A court in northern Burma has rejected an appeal by a British democracy activist against a 17-year sentence he is serving in a prison in the country's eastern Shan State, legal sources said Saturday.

James Mawdsley, 27, of Lancashire, was jailed in September last year after his arrest in a Burmese town at the northern Thai border for illegal entry and handing out pamphlets urging people to protest Myanmar's military regime.

Mawdsley's defence lawyer Kyi Win submitted an appeal for pardon on Aug. 15 and it was rejected by a court in Mandalay, Burma's second largest city that lies 560 kilometers (350 miles) north of the capital Yangon, the sources said.

An earlier appeal was rejected in June by a lower court in the town of Lashio in Shan State.

The British Embassy in Yangon was not immediately available for comment as it was closed Saturday.

Mawdsley, who also holds an Australian passport, was arrested in Burma twice before, and in 1998 he served 99 days of a seven-year sentence before being pardoned on condition he not return to Burma, also known as Myanmar. After his release he said he had been tortured.

He is now imprisoned in the remote northeastern town of Keng Tung, 630 kilometers (390 miles) northeast of Yangon.

A British Embassy official who visited him one month ago reported that Mawdsley "was fine and in good shape." Embassy staff make monthly visits.

Hundreds of political prisoners languish in the harsh conditions of Burma's jails, only recently opened to inspections by the International Red Cross.

Several foreigners have been detained in the past few years for nonviolent protests against Burma's unelected regime, but Mawdsley is the only one jailed for an extensive period.

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