Friday, 22 August 2008

88 Gen Student leaders in custody for a year with remands in absentia - Min Ko Naing

Myint Maung
22 August 2008

New Delhi (Mizzima) – 88 Generation Student leaders have been in custody for a year without trial. They have been remanded successively by the court in absentia and are still in judicial custody.

Min Ko Naing and other 13 members of 88 Gen student leaders were arrested on August 21, 2007. But they have never been produced in court and formally charged. Today they complete one year in judicial custody.

"My clients are losing their rights. The accused must be produced in court to take remand for their judicial custody. Remand in absentia is not provided for in the law," advocate Aung Thein who is defence lawyer for the student leaders and has criminal power attorney from them, said.

"Only in this way, the court can examine their custodial situation, whether they have any injury and whether they need medical care during their custody or not. These are the important things for the accused. Now they have been remanded inside the prison for so long in absentia. The court didn't see and didn't hear their demands and grievances during custody. Remand means there have not been any formal charges against them and no case has been filed yet", he said.

The regime (SPDC) suddenly hiked fuel prices twice on August 15, 2007. Then the leader of the Burma Development Association Htin Kyaw demonstrated to launch a nationwide protest against rising fuel and essential commodity prices starting on August 22.

On the eve of the scheduled nationwide protest, the 88 Generation Student leaders were arrested and taken away from their homes. Two days before their arrest on August 19, the student leaders and about 500 people marched on the streets of Rangoon protesting against rising prices.

"They have been put in custody under successive remands. I think the court gave remand under five or six charges. The court gave two weeks for judicial custody in each remand. The accused have the right to present to the judge what they want to. In these remands given inside the prison compound, they were denied these rights. The court could not examine and question the accused while we could not ask anything to the judge," the defence lawyer Aung Thein said.

"The arrests of these student leaders were made unlawfully. And then they were deprived of their lawful rights in the prison including medical care. The government is doing what they should not do," Bo Kyi, Secretary of the Thai based 'Association of Assistance to Political Prisoners in Burma' (AAPPB), said.

"It reveals lack of the rule of law in Burma. They fought for democracy and human rights in the 1988 popular uprising. They have served long prison terms before. Now they have again been arrested for their struggle for democracy, human rights and for protesting against rising commodity prices. We pay our heartfelt respect to them for standing by the people. They are role models for the next generation of students," he added.

The student leaders who had served long prison terms before are now suffering from one or other ailment in prison.

"The student leaders have already suffered various diseases during their previous lengthy prison terms before being arrested again last year. My elder brother's chief complaint is indigestion. He is trying his best to prevent his disease from worsening. He's having only gruel in prison instead of rice," Aung Aung Tun, younger brother of student leader Ko Ko Gyi, said.

"No one's health is in good shape in prison. The prosecution has been constantly changing the charges leveled against them since their arrest. The last time he was charged under in the Foreign Currency case under section 24(1) of Foreign Currency Exchange Act. Min Ko Naing is suffering from eye, hypertension, high blood pressure, heart ailment and bone diseases," he added.

Similarly Mya Aye is suffering from heart disease and Min Zeya is suffering from hypertension. They badly need timely treatment and proper medical care, he added.

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