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BURMA: Inexplicable continued imprisonment of innocent man for over 22 years Asian Human Rights Commission

04.11.11 12:41

BURMA: Inexplicable continued imprisonment of innocent man for over 22 years


November 4, 2011 ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-227-2011 4 November 2011 --------------------------------------------------------------------BURMA: Inexplicable continued imprisonment of innocent man for over 22 years ISSUES: Administration of justice, arbitrary arrest and detention --------------------------------------------------------------------AHRC BURMESE-LANGUAGE BLOG http://burma.blog.humanrights.asia --------------------------------------------------------------------Dear friends, The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has been alerted to the case of a man who has been held in prison in Burma for over 22 years for a crime that he did not commit. Than Zaw was arrested with a number of other men and accused of a bombing in 1989. He was sentenced to death by a military tribunal in which he had no rights to represent himself, but later the sentence was reduced to life imprisonment. Even though the authorities subsequently captured the person alleged to be the real bomber, and he was also imprisoned, neither Than Zaw nor the other accused were released. In October, the other remaining accused behind bars was finally let out of jail; however, inexplicably Than Zaw was not also freed. CASE NARRATIVE:

At around 4am on 13 July 1989 military intelligence personnel forced their way into the residence of Than Zaw in a town not far from Rangoon on the pretext of checking the household register against persons in attendance, and then took him into custody. They then went to detain another man, Moe Kyaw Thu, whom Than Zaw knew only vaguely, and then took them to an interrogation centre where they accused the two of involvement in a bombing of a petroleum refinery. They tortured both men repeatedly to force them to confess. At the end of the month, the two men and a third, Nyi Nyi Oo, were brought before a military tribunal, which had been set up under martial law that was in force in Rangoon at the time, and the tribunal sentenced them to death without permitting any of them a fair hearing or defence. The state media published a news conference by the head of military intelligence that the accused had confessed and that they were part of a plot by the National League for Democracy to blow up the refinery.
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BURMA: Inexplicable continued imprisonment of innocent man for over 22 years Asian Human Rights Commission

04.11.11 12:41

In September 1989, state media announced the arrest in August of a group of men allegedly belonging to an insurgent group who had been behind the bombings. Later, one of these reportedly admitted to the refinery bombing. He also was imprisoned; yet, the three men were not released and instead they were put on trial again with another group of NLD members, accused of high treason, and were given a life sentence. After about a year in the central prison, Than Zaw was accused of involvement in an inmates' protest, following the refusal of the military to hand over power to the NLD, which had won a national election by a landslide. The prison authorities called in the army and riot police, which put down the protest with heavy violence. Subsequently, Than Zaw was transferred to Thayet Prison in the central region of Burma. Since that time, the other accused in the case, including the alleged actual bomber, have been released from prison. The last of these, Nyi Nyi Oo, was freed in the October 12 release of over 6000 prisoners, including over two hundred prisoners of conscience. No reason has been given as to why Than Zaw has not also been freed, since the cases brought against him were the same as those against Nyi Nyi Oo. Further details of the case are in the sample letter below. BACKGROUND INFORMATION: A profile of Than Zaw's case, including details of torture and other issues, dated 2009 is available on the website of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma): www.aappb.org/bio_pdf/Thant_Zaw_aka_Than_Zaw_14Dec09.pdf . The AHRC issued a statement on the recent release of detainees, available here: http://www.humanrights.asia/news/ahrc-news/AHRC-STM-150-2011. For more commentary on these and other human rights issues in Burma, visit the Burma page on the new AHRC website: http://www.humanrights.asia/countries/burma. The AHRC Burmese-language blog is also updated constantly for Burmese-language readers, and covers the contents of urgent appeal cases, related news, and special analysis pieces. REQUESTED ACTION: Please write to the persons listed below to call for the immediate release of Than Zaw from prison. Please note that for the purposes of the letter Burma is referred to by its official name, Myanmar. Please be informed that the AHRC is writing separate letters to the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, the UN Working Group on arbitrary detention, and to the regional human rights office for Southeast Asia calling for interventions into this case. SAMPLE LETTER: Dear ___________, MYANMAR: Innocent man inexplicably detained for over 22 years after other accused freed Details of detainee: Than Zaw, a.k.a. Thant Zaw, aged approx. 43, former National League for Democracy youth member and organizer in Thanlyin Township, Yangon Region, Myanmar Details of arrest: 4am, 13 July 1989, at residence in Thanlyin, by members of military intelligence who took detainee to Aungthapyay Interrogation Centre in Yangon Details of charges and imprisonment: Convicted of murder under section 302(1)(b) (27 July 1989) and high treason under section 122(1) (5 September 1989) of the Penal Code by Military Tribunal No. 1 established under Yangon Command Martial Law Order No. 2/89 (21 July 1989), comprising of Lt-Col. Aung Nyunt (Serial No. BC/1121), chairman; and, Maj. Khin Kyaw (Serial No. BC/10473), and Lt-Cmdr. Than Htaik
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BURMA: Inexplicable continued imprisonment of innocent man for over 22 years Asian Human Rights Commission

04.11.11 12:41

(Serial No. BN /3271), sentenced to death and 20 years' imprisonment respectively; death sentence commuted to 20 years of imprisonment and 20 years reduced to 10 years under Order No. 1/93 (1 January 1993), making total sentence 30 years, out of which detainee has served over 22 years I am writing to you to call for the immediate release from prison of a man detained for over 22 years for a crime that he did not commit. Although Than Zaw's co-accused have been freed, as has a man who reportedly admitted to having committed the crime, inexplicably he is still being detained in Thayet Prison, Magway Region, where he has been kept for almost half of his lifetime. Briefly, I am informed that at on 13 July 1989 military intelligence personnel forced their way into the Thanlyin residence of Than Zaw on the pretext of checking the household register, and then took him into custody. They then went to detain another man, Moe Kyaw Thu, whom Than Zaw knew only vaguely, and then took them to an interrogation centre where they accused the two of involvement in a bombing of the petroleum refinery in Thanlyin. They tortured both men repeatedly to force them to confess. At the end of the month, the two men and a third, Nyi Nyi Oo, were brought before Military Tribunal No. 1, which sentenced them to death without permitting any of them a fair hearing or defence with legal counsel. The state media published a news conference by the head of military intelligence that the accused had confessed and that they were part of a plot by the National League for Democracy to blow up the refinery. In September 1989, state media announced the arrest in August of a group of men allegedly belonging to an insurgent group who had been behind the bombings. Later, one of these, named Ko Ko Naing, reportedly admitted to the refinery bombing. He also was imprisoned; yet, the three originally accused men were not released and instead they were put on trial again with another group of NLD members, accused of high treason, and were this time given a life sentence. Than Zaw was held at the Insein Central Prison, but on 25 September 1990 was accused of involvement in an inmates' protest. The prison authorities called in the army and riot police, who put down the protest with heavy violence, and he was transferred to Thayet the next day. Since that time, the other accused in the case, including the alleged actual bomber, have been released from prison. The last of these, Nyi Nyi Oo, was freed in the 12 October 2011 release of 6359 prisoners. I can see no reason as to why Than Zaw was not also freed along with Nyi Nyi Oo, since the cases brought against him were the same as those against Nyi Nyi Oo, and since both men have throughout maintained their innocence and pointed to the fact that an actual alleged culprit was later caught for the crime. In light of the apparent efforts by the NLD and the current government of Myanmar to have some kind of reconciliation, and given that Than Zaw was apparently imprisoned as a part of a program against the NLD, it strikes me that now is precisely the time that he ought to be freed. In this regard, I note in particular the October 10 open letter from the newly formed Myanmar National Human Rights Commission to the national president, urging that prisoners of conscience be released. I also take this opportunity to call for the International Committee of the Red Cross to be given full access to Myanmar's jails in accordance with its international mandate without further delay. I believe that reestablishing this arrangement with the ICRC is a minimum condition that the government of Myanmar must meet before its claims to be making political and other changes for the betterment of Myanmar can be taken seriously. Yours sincerely, ---------------PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO: 1. U Thein Sein President of Myanmar President Office Office No.18
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BURMA: Inexplicable continued imprisonment of innocent man for over 22 years Asian Human Rights Commission

04.11.11 12:41

Naypyitaw MYANMAR 2. U Hla Min Minister for Home Affairs Ministry of Home Affairs Office No. 10 Naypyitaw MYANMAR Tel: +95 67 412 079/ 549 393/ 549 663 Fax: +95 67 412 439 3. U Tun Tun Oo Chief Justice Office of the Supreme Court Office No. 24 Naypyitaw MYANMAR Tel: + 95 67 404 080/ 071/ 078/ 067 or + 95 1 372 145 Fax: + 95 67 404 059 4. Dr. Tun Shin Attorney General Office of the Attorney General Office No. 25 Naypyitaw MYANMAR Tel: +95 67 404 088/ 090/ 092/ 094/ 097 Fax: +95 67 404 146/ 106 5. U Win Mra Chairman Myanmar National Human Rights Commission 27 Pyay Road Hlaing Township Yangon MYANMAR Thank you. Urgent Appeals Programme Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (ua@ahrc.asia)

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