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Myanmar grants amnesty to political prisoners

[JURIST] Myanmar's military government has granted amnesty to 23 political detainees and more than 6,300 other prisoners, Thailand-based human rights group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) [advocacy website] said Sunday. Among those freed were members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, including Zaw Myint Maung [Irrawaddy report], who had been imprisoned for more than 18 years.  Myanmar's government said Friday that the prisoners were released due to good behavior and also to allow the country to hold fair elections [BNN report] in 2010. The prisoners' release follows a visit by UN Human Rights envoy to Myanmar Tomas Ojea Quintana [official website], which also coincided with the reduction of the prison sentences [Irrawaddy report] of several political activists last week. The government is still holding [DVB report] more than 2,000 political prisoners, including NLD head Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile].

Even before Quintana's visit, Myanmar [JURIST news archive] had faced increasing international pressure to end its persecution of political dissidents. Last month, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] sent an open letter [text, PDF; JURIST report] to the government, urging it to cease targeting its Rohingya Muslim minority [BBC profile]. In December, the UN General Assembly [official website] adopted a resolution [press release; JURIST report] denouncing the nation's alleged human rights violations. Last June, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] criticized the government of Myanmar [JURIST report] for its continued human rights abuses and refusal to cooperate with humanitarian groups.

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