Freedom for jailed British human rights activist

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The Independent Online

Human rights activist James Mawdsley is to be freed from jail in Myanmar, one year into a 17-year sentence.

Human rights activist James Mawdsley is to be freed from jail in Myanmar, one year into a 17-year sentence.

Foreign Office Minister John Battle said Myanmar ambassador Kyaw Win had told him Mr Mawdsley would be freed and deported. The exact timing of the release was not disclosed.

Mr Mawdsley, 27, was sentenced last year after he sneaked into Myanmar, also known as Burma, to protest against the military regime.

He was charged with immigration offenses and violating a publications law by handing out pro-democracy leaflets, and has served a year.

"I'm delighted. I'm choking up on this news," said his father, David.

"All the family are phoning each other up madly. It's just overwhelming, fantastic.

"It just shows the Burmese junta will listen when international pressure is strong enough."

Last week the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled Mr Mawdsley was being held in jail unlawfully.

"I am relieved that the Burmese regime has recognized that there is no justification in keeping James in prison and has decided to deport him as soon as possible," said Mr Battle.

"I am delighted that James and his family will be reunited very shortly and that all the efforts made by our Foreign Office staff, our ambassador in Rangoon, the family and the campaign groups, together with the support of our international partners, have achieved their aim," he added.

Mr Mawdsley, from Lancashire, had been arrested in Myanmar twice before.

In 1998 he served 99 days of a seven-year sentence. He was pardoned on condition he not return to the country.

Last month, British consular officials reported that Mr Mawdsley had been beaten by guards at remote Keng Tung prison, 390 miles north-east of the capital, Yangon.

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook condemned the alleged attack as "an outrageous violation of his human rights."

The Myanmar government said Mawdsley had injured himself "accidentally" in a scuffle.

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