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Myanmar court sentences US rights activist to 3 years for fraud

[JURIST] A court in Myanmar on Wednesday convicted rights activist and US citizen Kyaw Zaw Lwin, also known as Nyi Nyi Aung [Freedom Now profile], on charges of fraud and forgery. Aung was sentenced to three years in prison [AFP report] for forging an identity card, and one year each for failing to declare foreign currency and immigration violations, to be serve concurrently. The charges [JURIST report] carried a potential maximum of 10 years. The activist's lawyer, Nyan Win, said that they will appeal the conviction [BBC report]. Aung was arrested on September 3 when he entered the country, and was initially accused of inciting anti-government unrest. Freedom Now [advocacy website], which represents Aung, claimed [press release, PDF] that the government has committed a variety of human rights violations [JURIST comment] while detaining him. Fifty-three members of the US House of Representatives have called [letter, PDF] on Myanmar to release Aung, but the US government has not officially requested a release. International rights groups such as Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] have also urged [press release] the government to release Aung.

In January, a Myanmar government official said that pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], also represented by Freedom Now, will 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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