Burmese political prisoner freed after nearly 20 YearsSeptember 24th, 2008 - 2:28 pm ICT by ANI
Myanmar, Sept.24 (ANI): Burma’’s longest-serving political prisoner, 78-year-old Win Tin, was freed Tuesday after spending 19 years behind bars.
The journalist-turned-rebel activist, however, vowed to continue pressing for freedom from the junta’’s 46 years of military rule.
According to Fox News, Win Tin, an activist who helped found Aung San Suu Kyi’’s opposition party in 1988, was one of at least seven political prisoners released, according to Amnesty International.
There are still an estimated 2,100 political prisoners held in Burma, the rights group said.
Win Tin said he would continue to wear his prison blues as a sign of protest against the junta, which has since renamed the nation Myanmar, and he vowed to keep pressing for more freedom.
A longtime journalist and poet, while in prison Win Tin wrote poems on the walls of his cell with ink made of brick powder and water, according to supporters who visited him.
“I have to continue with my unfinished task of trying to achieve democracy in Burma,” Win Tin said from a friend’’s home in Rangoon after being released from the notorious Insein Prison.
He appeared alert and healthy despite recent reports that he is ill.
Asked how it felt to be free, Win Tin replied, “I will be happy only when all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi are released.”
Analysts suspect the secretive military junta timed the release as an attempt to fend off international criticism during the anniversary.
Analysts say the vast majority of the prisoners were likely petty criminals. The government often grants amnesty to people convicted of low-level crimes to mark important national days. Win Tin served as a close aide to Suu Kyi, who is currently under
Win Tin was arrested on July 4, 1989, during a crackdown on opposition politicians. Authorities initially kept him without food while interrogating him about his role in the democracy movement.
Tried in a military court, he was sentenced to 14 years in prison for allegedly being a member of the banned Communist Party of Myanmar.
He was most recently sentenced in March 1996 to an additional seven years” imprisonment for writing to the United Nations about prison conditions and for writing and circulating anti-government pamphlets in prison. Human rights groups rejoiced at news of Win Tin’’s release.
“We are immensely relieved that he has finally been freed. It is unacceptable that he was made to serve 19 years in prison for peacefully advocating democracy but today his release is an historic moment,” Reporters Without Borders said in a statement.
Amnesty International called the release “the best news to come out of Myanmar in a long time,” but said the seven political prisoners “don”t even represent one percent of the political prisoners there. There are many, many more who should also be released.”
While incarcerated, Win Tin had two heart attacks, a hernia operation and suffered from high blood pressure, diabetes and spinal inflammation, according to international media groups. (ANI)
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