Min Ko Naing (L) and Ko Ko Gyi. (Photo : AFP)
By WAI MOE
The Irrawaddy News
A prominent detained student activist and other political prisoners have been hit with new charges designed to prolong their detention, according to family members.
“We have learned, after a visit this week to Insein Prison, that Ko Ko Gyi, who was previously charged with Act 33 A, has been charged with 17/1 [the Illegal Organization Act],” said Aung Tun, his brother.
Ko Ko Gyi, a leader of the 88 Generation Students group, has been held in Insein Prison since 2007.
Act 33 A is related to illegally using communication equipment. Mobile telephones were reportedly seized by authorities from Ko Ko Gyi and his colleagues when they were arrested.
“He [Ko Ko Gyi] told me that he has been charged with 17/1 since July 3. The trail is in a special court, which is currently in what was previously known as the ‘Dog Cellblock’ in Insein Prison,” said Aung Tun.
Act 17/1 has been used for decades by prosecutors to charge Burmese insurgents and sympathizers.
“The situation seems to be that the junta wants to prolong the detention period of the former student leaders,” said Bo Kyi, a joint secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners—Burma.
Thirteen former student leaders, including Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi, were arrested on August 21, 2007, after more than 400 people marched against the government’s increase in fuel prices.
Since their arrest, they have frequently been charged under different laws. A frequent charge used by the regime is Publication Act 17/20.
Most former student leaders are serving long prison terms—some already have been in prison for more than 15 years.
Also this week, other political prisoners were charged. A well-known Burmese blogger, Nay Phone Latt, was charged under Public Offense Act 505 B for posting a cartoon on his blog depicting the junta’s leader, Snr-Gen Than Shwe.
Thin July Kyaw, a collegue of Nay Phone Latt, was charged under Video Act 32 B and Electronic Equipment Act 36.
For the third time since his arrest, Poet Saw Wai was placed on trial under Public Offense Act 505 B. He was arrested for placing a hidden message in a poem about Snr-Gen Than Shwe.
Meanwhile, prison authorities have seized all black colored clothing from political prisoners to prevent them from indicating they were in mourning, according to family members of prisoners.
“My brother said this week that all clothing with black colors was taken away by prison wardens,” said a sister of student activist Kyaw Ko Ko.