Hundreds gather to support detained British monk in Myanmar
Hundreds of people gathered at a Myanmar court on Friday to call for the release of a senior British monk stripped of his clerical status and accused of defaming Buddhism after being rounded up in a controversial monastery raid.
Monks and activists were among the crowds outside the Yangon court to press for the release of Uttara, a prominent cleric who has been held in Myanmar's notorious Insein prison since he was arrested in a late-night swoop apparently triggered by a dispute over ownership of monastic property.
The British Embassy has called on Myanmar to ensure full legal representation for Uttara, a UK passport holder who is believed to have moved to Britain in the early 1990s and was back in Myanmar on a working visit.
AFP was not allowed into the court Friday, with officials citing "security" issues.
"We citizens do not accept what happened. We ask for their immediate release," said construction worker Aung Khin, 56, outside the court.
The monastery raid, which saw 20 monks detained, has generated heated debate in Myanmar, where monks are revered, after members of the state-backed clergy were seen taking part.
Details of the ownership dispute are vague, but according to a report last week in the state-run English-language newspaper New Light of Myanmar, the row stems from a 2002 decision by the then-ruling junta to hand the property over to national Buddhist authorities.
© 2014 AFP