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Myanmar court sentences nine activists for disrupting prison trial

[JURIST] A court in military-ruled Myanmar [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday sentenced nine activists to six months in prison after they complained that their trials were being held in secret, according to a statement by one of their lawyers speaking to Reuters. The presiding judge at the trial in Yangon's Insein Prison [BBC backgrounder] ruled that the activists had interrupted a public servant at a judicial proceeding by repeatedly asking for an open trial that relatives could attend. The judge asked the lawyers to leave the courtroom and then sentenced the activists to six months in prison. The activists continue to face several charges, including the violation of a law banning demonstrations, speeches, or written statements that could undermine stability. It is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Reuters has more.

Most of the nine activists are leading members of the Burmese opposition 88 Generation Students movement [BBC backgrounder], a group of pro-democracy dissidents who were active during the country’s uprising in 1988. Nearly all of them were arrested in August 2007 during large anti-government street rallies led by Buddhist monks which were violently suppressed [JURIST report] by the military government. The UN Human Rights Council [official website] passed a resolution [press release] last March condemning Myanmar for ongoing systematic violations of human rights and people's fundamental freedoms. The European Union (EU) has also expressed concern over human rights violations in the country and the lack of investigations in the aftermath of last year's violent government suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations. According to Amnesty International [advocacy website], more than 2,100 people are imprisoned [Amnesty report] in Myanmar on account of their political or religious beliefs.

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