April 2, 2008 / 7:52 AM / 11 years ago

Myanmar junta sentences 40 protesters - Amnesty

BANGKOK (Reuters) - At least 40 people, including seven Buddhist monks, have been given prison sentences for taking part in last September’s anti-junta protests in Myanmar, Amnesty International said.

Among those sentenced in the past six months were three people who got between two and 2-½ years for giving water to demonstrating monks, the London-based human rights group said in a report released this week.

Other sentences ranged from two years to life, in the case of a youth member of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) charged with sedition for having political leaflets, Amnesty said in the report seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

“Not a single sentence has been on account of the otherwise legitimate reasons stated by the authorities, but rather for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly,” Amnesty said.

Myanmar’s military regime admitted to rounding up nearly 3,000 people in its bloody crackdown on the protests, but announced in December that all but 80 had been released. Since then, it has given no new numbers.

However, Amnesty said that at least 700 people picked up during and after the protests remained behind bars — in addition to the estimated 1,150 people already in detention on account of their political or religious beliefs.

The junta consistently has denied reports of large numbers of political prisoners.

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has been under unbroken military rule since 1962, but is due to hold a referendum in May on a junta-drafted constitution as part of a seven-step “roadmap to democracy”. Elections are slated for 2010.

Fifteen of the 40 prisoners listed by Amnesty were provincial members of the NLD, led by detained Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Amnesty list did not include any of the leading activists of the “88 Generation Students” group arrested in mid-August.

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