Amnesty demands release of all Myanmar political prisoners

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Amnesty International welcomed Saturday's release of Myanmar's democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and demanded freedom for the country's 2,200 other political prisoners.

The London-based human rights group said Aung San Suu Kyi's release was not a "concession" by the regime and it should not take attention away from other prisoners of conscience being held in "deplorable conditions".

"While Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's release is certainly welcome, it only marks the end of an unfair sentence that was illegally extended, and is by no means a concession on the part of the authorities," Amnesty secretary general Salil Shetty said.

"The fact remains that authorities should never have arrested her or the many other prisoners of conscience in Burma in the first place, locking them out of the political process."

He said it was now important the authorities ensured her security and "put an end to the ongoing injustice of political imprisonment in the country".

Amnesty claims there are still more than 2,200 political prisoners in Myanmar being held under vague laws frequently used to criminalise peaceful political dissent.

"The international community -- including China, India, ASEAN and the UN -- must act together to prevent Myanmar from abusing its legal system to penalise peaceful opponents," Shetty said.

"The release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi must not make them forget other prisoners of conscience."

Amnesty said such prisoners were being held in grim conditions, with inadequate food and sanitation. Many were in poor health and without access to proper medical treatment and had suffered torture during their initial detention.

Meanwhile Zoya Phan, the Burma Campaign UK organisation's international co-ordinator, sounded a note of caution about the regime's motives in freeing Aung San Suu Kyi.

"The release of Aung San Suu Kyi is about public relations, not democratic reform," she said.

"I am thrilled to see our democracy leader free at last, but the release is not part of any political process.

"Instead it is designed to get positive publicity for the dictatorship after the blatant rigging of elections on November 7.

"We must not forget the thousands of other political prisoners still suffering in Burma's jails."

© 2010 AFP

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