Dr Tun Aung; jailed by the Burmese authorities for trying to help
Plots of films are often based on cases of mistaken identity. A character on the run, working against the clock to prove her innocence – or a blameless soul languishing in jail as a determined, impoverished, lawyer works away to save him. Sadly, the truth about many prisoners ensnared in jails around the world is often far worse than this.
The case of Dr Tun Aung is a perfect example. A Muslim community leader in Burma, Dr Tun Aung is in prison for a crime that he did not commit. Or, more accurately, he is in prison having done the exact opposite of what he was charged for.
On 8 June 2012, Dr Tun Aung was asked by the Burmese authorities to aid the police in trying to stop violence starting due to the heightened ethnic tensions in the region. Later that day he was doing just that. Having been summoned by the police, Dr Aung actively tried to calm an agitated crowd – only to be arrested later that week by the same people he had agreed to help, and charged with inciting violence.
Initially, when Dr Aung was taken, his family had no idea of his whereabouts. After a few weeks they learned that he had been taken to a prison 170km from his home. He has remained there since, virtually incommunicado.
Dr Aung wasn’t allowed to choose his own lawyers, diminishing his chances of a fair trial, and the prosecution won an appeal to extend his sentence from 11 to 17 years on the basis that the shorter sentence was ‘too lenient’.
We believe the criminal charges waged against Dr Aung are unfounded, and regard him as a prisoner of conscience. He has been detained because the authorities were looking for individuals to blame, and targeted for exactly the same reason he had been asked to help: his position as a Muslim community leader.
Being held at such a distance means that families struggle to be able to visit their loved ones. Dr Aung’s case is no exception. The practice of transferring prisoners to remote locations began in 2008 in Burma as a method of further punishing both them and their families.
To mark the 1st anniversary of Dr Aung’s arrest on 11 June, we will be showing solidarity with his family by sending them cards to let them know they are not alone. We know messages of solidarity help strengthen the resolve and ease the pain of those separated from their loved ones, show that we haven’t forgotten them, and that we’re still campaigning on their behalf.
It’s not normally possible for us to send solidarity messages into Burma, and we have a rare opportunity to send messages to Dr Tun Aung’s adult children who are currently based in the region but outside of Burma.
Please join us in showing your solidarity. Send a non-religious card, before July 12 2013 to:
Dr Tun Aung’s Family, c/o Myanmar Team
1 Easton Street
For more information and full details on how to write your solidarity message take a look at our latest Monthly Action
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.