Email This Story :
Feb 16, 2010 (DVB)-Four detained organizers and participants of weekly prayer ceremonies that called for the release of Burmese political prisoners were each sentenced to two years’ imprisonment with hard labour by a court in Rangoon yesterday.
"When passing the sentence, the court could not provide strong evidence against them as there is no (reliable) witness," their lawyer Kyaw Ho said. "The punishment is unacceptable legally, and I am making preparations to appeal."
The sentence was passed by eastern Rangoon district court on the day the UN human rights envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana arrived in Burma to examine the country’s progress on human rights.
Naw Ohn Hla, Cho Cho Lwin, Cho Cho Aye and San San Myint were arrested on 3 October after attending a religious ceremony at a monastery and charged with section 505(b) of the penal code (disturbing public tranquility) for handing a Buddhist prayer book to a monastery abbot in Magwe division.
The charge has been used to imprison a number of perceived dissenters, including journalist Eint Khaing Oo, who was recently honoured with the Kenji Nagai journalism award. Naw Ohn Hla, is a member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
Her husband Aung Than expressed his dismay at the verdict and serious concerns for her.
"Her health is not good. She has heart condition and blood pressure problems," he said.
In June, two members of the prayer group were handed sentences of one and a half years each after holding a prayer ceremony at a pagoda near to Rangoon division’s Twante township.
They were charged under Section 295(a) which addresses "desecration of religious buildings and property".
The prayer campaign has been running for more than five years, and has been subjected to frequent intimidation by police in Burma.
Reporting by Naw Noreen