Burma (Burma): Sports journalist remains imprisoned while Europe hits football frenzy

Zaw Thet Htwe is the editor of a popular Burmese sports magazine, First Eleven. He was initially sentenced to death in November 2003 but his sentence was reduced to three years imprisonment on 12 May 2004. International pressure helped to contribute to the commutation of his sentence and the two organisations are hopeful that additional pressure could help secure his full release.

The military junta accused Zaw Thet Htwe of involvement in a “conspiracy” against the government and charged him with “high treason”.

However Amnesty International and Reporters without Borders believe that he is a prisoner of conscience, arrested for exercising his right to freedom of expression. He had reportedly taken the risk of exposing irregularities on the part of Burmese sports officials.

The seven law students, who have been in detention since June 2003, are believed to have been arrested because they set up a student sports union in their university without official permission.

Aung Gyi, Aung Ko Lwin, Kyaw Maung, Myo Myint Tun, Myo Than Htut, Nang Siang None and Win Htut Lwin were sentenced to terms of between seven and fifteen years’ imprisonment and were reportedly ill-treated after their arrest.

They are among more than 1,350 political prisoners detained in Burma, many of whom have been arrested for their peaceful political activities.

An online petition for the release of Zaw Thet Htwe and the seven students has been set up on www.rsf.org .

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