Burma monks leader faces death penalty

What price do you put on free speech and the right to peaceful protest?

Sadly in Burma, the cost could well be life.

In September, the All-Burma Monks Alliance was instrumental in getting thousands of monks onto the streets in pro-democracy demonstrations. The protests produced the iconic sea of Saffron, which led to 450,000 people signing up to a Facebook campaign supporting the monks.

However, as we all sadly know now, the ruling military junta reacted with a brutal crackdown. At least 13 people were killed, hundreds were injured and thousands of monks, politicians, human rights activists and ordinary citizens were detained.

U Gambira, the leader of the All-Burma Monks Alliance, went into hiding, but Amnesty has now received reports that he has been arrested and charged with treason. If convicted he faces life imprisonment or the death penalty.

No one knows where he is being held and the fears are that he could be at risk of torture and ill-treatment.

Today, Amnesty International urged all of its members to write to the Burmese authorities voicing their concerns.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, it seems to be a case of giving with one hand and taking with the other. And as The Guardian rightly points out, while the news that thousands of political prisoners have been released, has to be welcomed, the fact that the judiciary has been filled with General Musharrafs cronies is hardly a step forward.

Unsurprisingly, as the BBC reported, one of the first moves by the Supreme Court was to dismiss a number of petitions challenging Musharrafs right to stand as president again.

Indeed, according to The Independent, the lack of independence of the judiciary has even sparked cricket legend turned politician Imran Khan to embark on a hunger strike.

The international world will have its chance to have their say this week. The ASEAN conference has Pakistan top of the agenda, and later this week those nations will face the EU, China and India with Musharrafs actions again set to dominate discussions.

Watch this space

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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