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Myanmar court sentences Suu Kyi supporters to prison

[JURIST] A closed prison court in Myanmar on Monday sentenced Naw Ohn Hla and three other women to two years imprisonment with hard labor. The women, supporters of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], were accused [AP report] of causing public unrest. According to Nyan Win, spokesperson for Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) [party website], the four women were arrested last October for offering religious literature to Buddhist monks at a high-profile monastery. The women additionally held prayer services for Suu Kyi's release. The judgment was offered the same day that UN special envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana [official profile] arrived in Myanmar to assess the state of human rights [UN News Centre report], while hoping to meet with Suu Kyi. On Tuesday, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] released a report [text, PDF] urging Myanmar to end its practice of repressing ethnic minority activists [press release], lift its restrictions on freedom of association, assembly, and religion, and release all prisoners.

The women's arrest comes just four days after Suu Kyi learned that her appeal against the extension of her house arrest was rejected [News24 report]. In January, a Myanmar government official said that Suu Kyi would be released from house arrest [JURIST report] in November when her sentence is scheduled to end. The extension of Suu Kyi's house arrest stems from an August conviction [JURIST report] for violating state security laws by allowing American John Yettaw to stay in her home after he swam across a lake to get there. Yettaw, who was sentenced to seven years in prison with four years of hard labor, was released [JURIST report] in August after negotiations with US Senator Jim Webb (D-VA). Suu Kyi was initially sentenced to three years in prison with hard labor, but her sentence was immediately commuted by junta chief General Than Shwe. Suu Kyi has spent 14 of the last 20 years in detention, and her latest conviction has been condemned [BBC report] by many world leaders as a political move to prevent her from running in the upcoming elections. Her conviction has given rise to international sanctions [JURIST report] against Myanmar's junta and members of the judiciary.

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