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Former political prisoner re-imprisoned in Burma on defamation charges

UPDATE from Mizzima News: President's Office orders release of Nay Myo Zin (20 May 2013)

The Thai-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) said in a statement on Wednesday 8 May 2013 that the cancelation of amnesty for former political prisoner Nay Myo Zin is "a disturbing warning sign to former political prisoners conditionally released under section 401 (1)".

In January 2012, Nay Myo Zin, a former army captain and charity worker, was released under a political amnesty by the government. However, on 2 May 2013, Nay Myo Zin was given the option of three months' imprisonment or payment of a 20,000 kyat (US$22) fine for charges of defaming police officers and for talking to the public about corrupted police officers at a meeting with farmers held in Pantanaw, Ayeyarwady Region.

"He actively participated in activities supporting farmers' rights. He also took part in social activities," Tate Naing, secretary of AAPP, told Mizzima.

He refused to pay the fine, claiming the formal accusations were untrue, according to AAPP's statement. He was sent to Maubin prison.

"The move to impose Nay Myo Zin's remaining sentence comes on the same day he was scheduled to be released on bail. A coalition of landless farmers raised 20,000 kyats to post bail and delivered it to the Pantanaw Court on 7 May. However, hours before he was to be freed, the Ministry of Home Affairs ordered Nay Myo Zin to serve six years of his remaining nine-year sentence," according to the AAPP's statement.

Nay Myo Zin was initially imprisoned for 10 years under the Electronics Transactions Act in March 2011, making him the first political prisoner under President Thein Sein. He was conditionally released on 13 January 2012.

Section 401 (1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure says, "When any person has been sentenced to punishment for an offense, the President of the Union may at any time, without conditions or upon any conditions which the person sentenced accepts, suspend the execution of his sentence or remit the whole or any part of the punishment to which he has been sentenced."

"The case of Nay Myo Zin sends a strong message to thousands of released political prisoners, who have similarly been released under Article 401 (1), that they are not free. His sentence greatly harms the human rights of released political prisoners and their ability to openly and freely engage in democracy and the national reconciliation process," said Tate Naing.

AAPP called on the government to release Nay Myo Zin immediately and to wipe his criminal record.

Similarly, Burma Campaign UK released a statement on Wednesday 8 May, saying, "Burma Campaign UK today expressed extreme concern that political activist Nay Myo Zin is being forced to serve his old prison sentence after being convicted on a new charge."

Presently, AAPP has estimated that there are still more than 200 political prisoners in Myanmar jails and more than 70 political activists awaiting trial.

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