Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Myanmar activists get 253,524 signatures to free political prisoners

Submitted by Mohit Joshi on Tue, 04/21/2009 - 08:21.


Myanmar denounces French "warship" carrying aid to its remote areasBangkok - A global petition campaign to free Myanmar's political prisoners has secured 253,524 signatures to date, pro-democracy groups announced Tuesday.

The signature campaign, launched on March 13 marking Myanmar's Human Rights Day, aims to collect 888,888 signatures before May 24, 2009, the date that opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi should be released from house arrest, according to the country's laws.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is the most prominent of Myanmar's estimated 2,500 political prisoners. She has been under house arrest since May 2003, on charges of threatening national security.

According to Myanmar's criminal laws, the charge carries a maximum of five years imprisonment, leading some to hope authorities will be forced to free her before the sixth anniversary of her detention is reached on May 24.

Suu Kyi, who heads the National League for Democracy (NLD) opposition party, has spent 13 of the past 19 years under house arrest.

Thousands of other political prisoners have endured long jail terms in Myanmar and many face life imprisonment.

"We must show them they have not been forgotten," Nobel laureate Jody Williams said in a statement released by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners
(Burma), one of the groups behind the signature petition.

"Please embrace our fellow laureate Daw (Mrs) Aung San Suu Kyi and her colleagues as heroes for freedom, peace, and democracy, and sign the petition," Williams said.

The petition, which can be read on www. fbppn. net, calls on the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to make it his personal priority to secure the release of all political prisoners in Myanmar, also called Burma, as the essential first step towards national reconciliation and democratization in the country.

The target of 888,888 signatures symbolizes the date August 8, 1988 (8.8.88), when the country's junta cracked down on a pro-democracy demonstrators in Myanmar, killing an estimated 3,000 people. (dpa)

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