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The organisation remains extremely concerned for their safety, despite a Burma government statement of 6 September which downplays Amnesty International's challenge to clarify their whereabouts and criticises a 'negative media campaign … by certain quarters' of the British press.

U Soe Myint, a leader of the NLD, has reportedly been detained, together with 16 members of the party's Youth wing, after they tried to attend a party meeting. If these reports are confirmed, Amnesty International would consider them prisoners of conscience , arrested solely for exercising their right to freedom of association and for their membership of a non-violent political party.

They were among a group of NLD members, led by Daw Suu, and vice-chairman U Tin U, stopped by security forces on 24 August as they left Yangon for a meeting 30 miles away. They refused to turn back, and stayed at the roadside in the Yangon suburb of Dallah for nine days. Some 200 riot police eventually removed the group by force, at about 1.30am on 2 September.

Since then, NLD Central Executive Committee member U Soe Myint, chairman of the party's Yangon division, has reportedly been held in Insein Prison in Yangon, together with 16 NLD Youth members.

Political prisoners are often tortured during interrogation by Military Intelligence after they are arrested. After sentencing they can also be tortured if they break arbitrary and harsh prison rules. Prison conditions are extremely poor. Political prisoners are denied adequate food, medical care, and sanitation. Dozens have died through lack of proper care.

Amnesty International's global Urgent Action asks people to send faxes or emails to the Burmese government and its embassies, urging it to:

· release immediately and unconditionally U Soe Myint, Dr Myo Aung and the 16 NLD Youth members, unless they are charged with a recognizably criminal offense; · ensure that all 18 are allowed immediate access to lawyers, their families and medical treatment and that none are subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; · clarify the current situation of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, U Tin U and other NLD Central Executive Committee members whose movements have been restricted, and to ensure that they are not held in incommunicado detention.

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