Saturday, March 7, 2009

BURMA: Two lawyers released after serving time for contempt

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PRESS RELEASE
AHRC-PRL-015-2009

(Hong Kong, March 6, 2009) Two rights lawyers in Burma who were last year imprisoned for contempt of court were both released this morning after serving their full sentences.

Supreme Court advocates U Aung Thein and U Khin Maung Shein were reunited with their families at Bassein and Myaungmya prisons respectively after serving their four-month terms.

Aung Thein was in good spirits on his release, saying that it had been a learning experience for him.

"We sincerely hope that the two lawyers will now be able to get back to their practices and their family lives without any further needless harassment," Basil Fernando, director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, said on hearing the news.

The Hong Kong-based group set up a webpage to highlight the plight of lawyers in Burma through the case of Aung Thein and Khin Maung Shein, at http://campaigns.ahrchk.net/burma-lawyers.

The two were jailed simply for performing the wishes of their clients by withdrawing their powers of attorney on the reason that the clients "no longer had faith in the judicial process". They were not given an opportunity to defend themselves against the accusation.

Another two lawyers were around the same time sentenced to six months each for interfering in the work of the court by calling for government ministers to appear as witnesses. One of them is still serving his sentence while the other fled to Thailand.

Burma's colonial-era contempt of court law has only three sections and no details on how contempt is to be assessed and heard fairly. The AHRC has campaigned for proper standards of contempt in countries of Asia.

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.



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Asian Human Rights Commission
19/F, Go-Up Commercial Building,
998 Canton Road, Kowloon, Hongkong S.A.R.
Tel: +(852) - 2698-6339 Fax: +(852) - 2698-6367

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