Thursday, 4 September 2008

88 Generation Students Go On Trial

The Irrawaddy News

Thirty-five members of the 88 Generation Students group appeared in court on Tuesday. However, the case was adjourned because of the late hour after the activists had delayed proceedings by arguing against being handcuffed and calling for a public trial.

The activists, including Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi and Min Zaya, were arrested for participating in the monk-led demonstrations last year and have since been detained in Insein prison in Rangoon.

Aung Tun, the brother of Ko Ko Gyi, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that the activists—seven women and 28 men—appeared in Insein prison court at 4:30 in the afternoon the day before, by which time court proceedings had concluded for the day.

“Ko Ko Gyi told me the trial was delayed because the activists had tried to negotiate with the prison authorities not to be handcuffed,” said Aung Tun. “He said that they were political prisoners and, as such, demanded a public trial.

“I am not sure whether they will reappear for trial on Thursday,” Ko Aung added.

However, one of the group’s lawyers, Aung Thein—who said that he has not been allowed to meet his clients—told The Irrawaddy that if they refuse to appear in court on Thursday they would most likely be sentenced to six months in prison and be fined in accordance with Burmese law.

Meanwhile, the US Campaign for Burma released a statement on Tuesday accusing the Burmese military government of hauling dozens of detained pro-democracy activists to court just days after two UN envoys traveled to Burma seeking democratic change and improvements in human rights.

“By forcing Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi and the 88 Generation students into a sham trial instead of releasing them, the Burmese [authorities] have refused to cooperate with the UN Security Council,” said Aung Din, executive director of the US Campaign for Burma.

“If the Security Council wants to have any credibility at all, it must take strong action immediately, such as banning all weapons sales to the military regime,” he added in a press statement.

He said that Burma’s judiciary is widely seen as a kangaroo court system in which judges sentence human rights activists based on orders from the military regime in closed-door trials.

At least 2,092 political prisoners are currently being held in detention across the country, according to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), or AAPP.

The imprisoned activists are suffering “prolonged and unlawful detention, no access to proper legal counsel, no free or fair trials,” AAPP said.

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