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Detained comedian, sports columnist both charged with "disturbing public order"

(Mizzima/IFEX) - Lawyer Aung Thein reports that sports columnist Zaw Thet Htwe and comedian Zarganar ("Tweezers") were brought before court on 30 July 2008 and charged under section 505(b) of the Criminal Code for "disturbing public order". Their next hearing is scheduled for 7 August.

Both were arrested in June following their involvement in private relief operations for cyclone victims. Observers believe that Zarganar's arrest is in reprisal for the celebrity's outspoken nature and his critical stance toward the government's slow response to the cyclone crisis. Zaw Thet Htwe, on the other hand, is likely perceived by authorities as a conduit for the kind of disaster information and news on the cyclone-affected regions that the Burmese junta was working hard to suppress.

"The prison authorities told their families that their names were not yet entered in the register. . . But fellow inmates said that they are in Insein prison," a person close to both families said.

Zaw Thet Htwe was arrested on 13 June while on his way back home after visiting his ailing mother in Minbu, Magwe Division. The authorities searched his house and seized a telephone, computer, CDs and other documents. Although it has been 47 days since his arrest, the authorities have not yet formally informed his family about his arrest and have not yet allowed his family meet with him.

Zaw Thet Htwe's wife, Khaing Cho Zaw Win Tin, tried to meet with him in prison on 31 July after hearing of his being produced before the court the day before, but she was not granted access. "I asked prison authorities on Thursday but they could not tell me anything. We recently heard that he was in prison but it was not yet clear whether or not he had been produced before the court ", she said.

"I met him only once when he was arrested, and after that, we were not allowed to meet him again. And we still don't know his exact whereabouts. The whole family is worrying about him," Khaing Cho said.

Zaw Thet Htwe was previously arrested for writing an article on corruption among the Burmese sports authorities and was sentenced to death on 28 November 2003. His sentence was later commuted to three years in prison and he was released after serving his term.

Updates the Zarganar case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/94278

Updates the Zaw Thet Htwe case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/94509

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