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JUNTA RELEASES 52 ACTIVISTS DETAINED SINCE MAY

Following international pressure, on 2 July 2007, Burma's military rulers released the last of 52 activists arrested in May for participating in a prayer vigil for pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) says 51 were released on 27 June, but prominent HIV activist Phyu Phyu Thin, who carried out a five-day hunger strike, was held longer, reports SEAPA and Mizzima News.

Because voicing support for Suu Kyi and other political prisoners invites arrest and torture, political activists channelled calls for her release through prayer gatherings in the predominantly Buddhist nation. Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory in 1990 elections, but Burma's military blocked it from taking power.

The month-long prayer campaign was to end on 30 May, the fourth anniversary of the Depayin Massacre of up to 100 NLD supporters. As the vigils gathered momentum, prayer participants were harassed, attacked and even arrested by a civilian group linked to the authorities, SEAPA said.

Meanwhile, on 4 July 2007, the 18th anniversary of the jailing of Burma's most famous journalist, SEAPA reiterated the call for his release. U Win Tin was eligible for early release from a 20-year sentence in July 2006, but was kept in prison for not having performed hard labour.

Despite poor health, the 77-year-old journalist and poet has refused to give up his political activity. He marked his birthday in March by issuing a call for resistance against the military regime, telling a visitor that "all political prisoners must be freed and the democratic parliament must meet." Denied paper or writing instruments, U Win Tin reportedly made ink out of powder from cell bricks, and fashioned a pen from a bamboo mat.

According to the Burma Media Association (BMA), a network of exiled Burmese journalists, U Win Tin's principal crime was being a key adviser to Aung San Suu Kyi. Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) said U Win Tin is the last NLD leader arrested in 1989 who is still in prison.

U Win Tin has received the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, the World Association of Newspapers' Golden Pen of Freedom Award and the RSF/Fondation de France Prize.

Visit these links:
- SEAPA: http://www.seapabkk.org/
- Phyu Phyu Thin released: http://tinyurl.com/ywnnpz
- RSF on U Win Tin: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=22763
(10 July 2007)

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