U.S. Citizen Charged in Burma

A Burmese-American faces new charges and a lengthy jail term.
2009-10-14
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Guards stand at the entrance to Insein Prison in Rangoon, Sept. 18, 2009.
Guards stand at the entrance to Insein Prison in Rangoon, Sept. 18, 2009.
AFP

BANGKOK—A U.S. citizen born in Burma and detained for allegedly plotting to incite unrest in the military-ruled country has appeared in court and could face up to 14 years in jail on two new charges, his lawyer said.

“His case was filed today at the Insein Prison compound, with Mingaladon court,” Kyaw Zaw Lwin’s lawyer, Nyan Win, said in an interview Wednesday.

Kyaw Zaw Lwin is also known as Nyi Nyi Aung.

His mother is serving a five-year jail term for political activities and his sister was sentenced to 65 years in prison for her role in 2007 protests, according to relatives.

“The charges are 420 [fraud] and 468 [forgery]. Nyi Nyi Aung doesn’t know what kind of forgery he is charged with, because he never had or used a fake passport,” Nyan Win said.

“We have to wait and see when they submit their evidence [to craft] our defense. At this point we cannot say anything,” he said.

Kyaw Zaw Lwin has said he was tortured during his initial interrogation and denied that he planned to incite unrest in Burma, the lawyer said.

Fraud and forgery charges each carry a prison term of seven years.

Relatives jailed

A hearing is set for Oct. 23 with testimony by prosecution witnesses, including immigration officials, Nyan Win said.

Kyaw Zaw Lwin, a naturalized American who lives in the eastern U.S. state of Maryland, was detained Sept. 3 on arrival in the former Burmese capital, Rangoon.

According to the Associated Press, a U.S. Embassy consular official attended the hearing inside Rangoon’s Insein Prison.

Nyan Win said his client told him on Monday that he was physically tortured while being interrogated during the early part of his detention. He denied allegations that he was plotting to incite unrest.

Burma’s military government has accused him of entering the country to stir up protests by Buddhist monks, who led pro-democracy demonstrations in 2007 that the junta suppressed with deadly force.

Nyan Win, along with another lawyer, Kyi Win, led the legal team that defended pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a recent high-profile trial at the end of which her house arrest was extended.

She has spent 14 of the last 20 years in detention.

Norway-based human rights lawyer Min Lwin Oo said the junta appeared to be leveling different charges against Kyaw Zaw Lwin as a means of extending his detention.

“The charges mentioned previously were different," Min Lwin Oo said in an interview.

“The authorities used different charges just to extend his detention every two weeks, as the law requires,” he said.

But Kyaw Zaw Lwin “got a visa from the Burmese embassy in Bangkok and went into Burma legally … This act by the Burmese authorities is unlawful.”

Original reporting by RFA’s Burmese service. Translated from the Burmese by Khin May Zaw. Additional reporting by the Associated Press. Burmese service director: Nancy Shwe. Executive producer: Susan Lavery. Written and produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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