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Monk given 14-year jail term

Jan 21, 2009 (DVB), A monk who was arrested following public demonstrations in September 2007 has been sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment by Mayangon township court for stealing a jade Buddha statue.

U Khaema Sara from Bahan township in Rangoon was found guilty of stealing the statue and possession of a fake identity card, according to source close to the case.

"He hadn't been using fake ID card but he carried it while he was hiding from the authorities after the September 2007 uprising," the source said.

"After he came back from hiding, he stayed at Shan Kyaung monastery in Mayangon township and there was a broken Buddha statue made of jade he sent to a shop in Shwe Dagon pagoda to get fixed," he said.

"He was also accused of stealing that statue after authorities arrested him."

Mayagon township judge Khin Thant Zin sentenced him to seven years for stealing the statue and another seven years for using a fake identity card.

U Khaema Sara was originally also charged with defaming the Sasana, but another source said these charges had been dropped.

"The charge of defaming the Sasana is considered somewhat political," the source said.

"We think the court dropped these charges so they could just send him to prison as a common criminal, so that he could be sent off to a prison labour camp somewhere."

Reporting by Nan Kham Kaew