Burmese junta sentences former UK ambassador to one year in prison

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A military-controlled court in Myanmar has sentenced Vicky Bowman, a former UK ambassador to the country, to one year in prison for immigration offences, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

Myanmar’s military regime also sentenced Bowman’s husband, artist Htein Lin, to one year in prison on Friday.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the former leader who has previously been sentenced to 17 years in prison on various charges since her ousting in a coup last year, has been sentenced to an additional three years for electoral fraud, according to local media Myanmar Now on Friday. The punishment will be the first imposed on the 77-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate to include hard labor.

Bowman, British envoy to Myanmar from 2002 to 2006, and Htein Lin had been sentenced to the notorious Insein prison in Yangon, sources familiar with the matter said. They were arrested last week and faced up to five years in prison for allegedly breaking immigration law.

“We will continue to support Ms Bowman and her family until their case is resolved,” the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said in a statement.

Vicky Bowman pictured with her husband Htein Lin and their daughter in 2008 © South China Morning Post/Getty Images

Myanmar’s military overthrew the government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February last year, after claiming voting irregularities in an election that her National League for Democracy party won by a margin amazing.

She was found guilty of numerous counts, including bribery, incitement against the junta, violation of a disaster management law, and violation of communications and import-export laws for illegal possession of walkie-talkies.

Her trials in Naypyidaw, the capital, were closed to the media and she had limited access to her lawyers, who were not allowed to discuss her cases publicly. Previously, she had spent a combined 15 years under house arrest under former military dictatorships.

“Aung San Suu Kyi’s latest sentencing has again sent a clear message that the military junta has no interest in upholding democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Myanmar,” said said the Asian Network for Free Elections (Anfrel) in a statement. .

The watchdog group called on the junta to “respect the results of the 2020 elections and restore civilian rule”.

Win Myint, the country’s former president, who was arrested in the coup, was sentenced on Friday to three years alongside Aung San Suu Kyi, as was another former government minister. Win Myint faces multiple charges of bribery, inciting dissent and violating the Disaster Management Act regarding coronavirus restrictions during the election campaign.

Bowman is the director of the Myanmar Center for Responsible Business, a non-governmental organization that advises local businesses on best investing and operating practices. Htein Lin is a prominent artist, dissident and former political prisoner who was previously imprisoned from 1998 to 2004.

More than 15,000 people have been arrested and more than 2,200 killed by the military junta in a sweeping crackdown since the coup, according to the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners, a local advocacy group.

Among those arrested were a number of foreign nationals, including Australian Sean Turnell, economic adviser to Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained since early 2021 on charges under the Official Secrets Act and the immigration law.

Toru Kubota, a Japanese photographer, was arrested in July.

But a number of detainees have been released, their sentences commuted or their charges dropped. Danny Fenster, an American journalist, was expelled from the country last November six months after being arrested and days after being sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Nathan Maung, another American journalist, was released and deported in June 2021 after his charges were dropped. Maung, who had been detained for three months, claimed he was tortured in police custody.

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