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Top Karen National Union (KNU) official Mahn Nyein Maung was handed a life sentence and an additional three years imprisonment after being charged with treason and unlawful association.
“[According to the law] we have a right to file an appeal at the Regional High Court within 60 days if we are unhappy with the verdict,” said his lawyer Kyi Myint.
The KNU Central Committee member received three-year sentence for his unlawful association charge and a life term for treason.
Mahn Nyein Maung was arrested at Yangon International Airport in Rangoon after he was deported from China and denied re-entry into Thailand.
While in detention, he helped broker a tentative peace deal between the KNU and the government. The initial ceasefire agreement is the first of its kind after 60 years of fighting between the KNU and the government.
In the deal’s wake, a government minister said Mahn Nyein Maung might be pardoned because of his assistance during negotiations.
“He should be released since the KNU, although armed, has already signed an initial ceasefire agreement,” said his lawyer. “He was asked to help as much as he could in brokering the peace talks with a promise that he wouldn’t be charged, but then he got charged. This shouldn’t happen when peace is being made. “
He said he would consult Mahn Nyein Maung before submitting an appeal.
KNU spokesman David Htaw said Mahn Nyein Maung would likely be released if he sought judicial appeals or requested a presidential pardon.
At 70, the KNU Central Committee member also leads the United Nationalities Federal Council. Earlier in his life Mahn Nyein Maung was exiled to the Coco Islands, 300 kilometres south of Rangoon in the Andaman Sea, in the early 1960s. After nearly a decade in jail on the islands, he and another prisoner managed to escape on rafts, but were apprehended on the Burmese mainland and thrown back in jail.