New Dissident Trials in Burma

Dozens of dissidents and activists face closed trials in Burma, including a leading monk.
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Monks march through downtown Rangoon, Sept. 24, 2007.
Monks march through downtown Rangoon, Sept. 24, 2007.

BANGKOK—The detained leader of the All Burmese Monk’s Alliance, now on trial with 36 other dissidents in Burma, is ill and depressed and suffering from headaches and numbness in detention, according to one of his lawyers.

“He said he was pretty weak, and he had an IV drip. He didn't look good. He told me that if he concentrates on something or tries to think, he feels heavy and numb in his head,” lawyer Khin Maung Shein said in an interview after meeting Ashin Gambira on Wednesday.

“Last Monday when I met him, from the way he talked to me, it was clear he was very depressed. I told him not to be disheartened and to try to stay healthy. He also said he is tired. Today he looked a bit better, but he further complained about numbness and pain in his head,” he said.

Another lawyer representing Ashin Gambira, Aung Thein, resigned as counsel in one of the cases against him on Oct. 1, telling the court that it hadn’t allow him to prepare a defense.

Aung Thein said he was permitted insufficient information about Gambira and 10 other defendants and wasn’t given enough time to refute a 13-page filing by the prosecution.

Ashin Gambira—a major figure in the Saffron Revolution of September and October 2007—is charged with multiple offenses, including violating laws on immigration and associations. He was arrested Oct. 4 in Sagaing, in Mandalay division, after hiding for almost a year.

Closed trials

Closed trials began Monday in the former capital, Rangoon, of 37 political activists and dissidents on a range of charges. Among the defendants are several leaders of the 1988 student uprising against the junta.

Burmese sources said the trials are going on in different venues: in the notorious Insein prison and in courts in Hlaing Tharyar township and Kamaryut township.

The 1988 student activists are all being tried at Insein prison, with some 600 witnesses expected to testify, Burmese sources say. Defendants receive breakfast at 8:30 a.m. and remain in court without meals until the proceedings adjourn at 4 p.m.

Several sources close to the defendants meanwhile said that Ye Nyunt, a senior police officer assigned to prosecute Gambira, entertainer Zargana, and several of the student leaders, attempted suicide on Oct. 9 at his home.

Relatives of his clients have said he had become friendly with them and often apologized for prosecuting them. Three sources who asked not to be named said he remains in hospital under tight security.

Original reporting by Khin May Zaw and Tin Aung Khine, translated by Khin May Zaw for RFA's Burmese service. Burmese service director: Nancy Shwe. Executive producer: Susan Lavery. Written and produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.





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