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BLOGGER JAILED FOR 20 YEARS, POET GETS TWO YEARS

A young Burmese blogger and a poet who disguised an attack on the country's military leader Than Shwe have received heavy jail sentences, report Mizzima News, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and other IFEX members.

Blogger Nay Phone Latt, 28, was sentenced to 20 years and six months in jail by a court in Rangoon's Insein prison on 10 November.

The poet, Saw Wai, received a two year sentence for a Valentine's Day poem that mocked Than Shwe published in the weekly "Love Journal". The first words of each line of the Burmese language poem spelled out the message "Power Crazy Senior General Than Shwe".

Even the lawyer representing Nay Phone Latt, Aung Thein, is himself serving four months for contempt of court for complaining of unfair treatment during earlier proceedings.

Nay Phone Latt's mother, Aye Than, who was not allowed to attend the trial, said, "He is the first ever blogger to be arrested in Burma. I have no idea why they punished my son with such a harsh judgment."

Nay Phone Latt is a former member of the opposition National League for Democracy, who owns three internet cafés in the capital Rangoon. His Burmese language blog, http://www.nayphonelatt.net/ , provided invaluable information about events during and after the "Saffron Revolution", the monk-led protests last September that were put down by the military.

His was sentenced to 15 years for offences under the Electronics Act, two years for "creating public alarm" and three and a half years for offences under the Video Act. The charges included possession of a banned video of the unrest.

The government appears to be expediting the trials of activists involved in last year's protests, says the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). More than two dozen activists were sentenced to harsh prison terms this week that will keep them in jail long past a 2010 election. On 11 November, 14 members of the Generation 88 Students group were sentenced to prison terms of 65 years each.

Amnesty International says the junta holds more than 2,100 political prisoners, up sharply from nearly 1,200 in June 2007 - before the pro-democracy demonstrations.

RSF is asking bloggers worldwide to show solidarity with Nay Phone Latt by publishing his photo on their blogs. RSF and the Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of International PEN are also urging protest letters to be sent to Burmese embassies worldwide requesting his and Saw Wai's release.

Visit these links:
- Mizzima News: http://tinyurl.com/5w24bt
- CPJ: http://tinyurl.com/5pbjnw
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=29243
- WiPC: http://tinyurl.com/55wzbc
- Amnesty International: http://tinyurl.com/5wc2u2
(12 November 2008)

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