Birmania: attore dissidente condannato a 45 anni di carcere
Myanmar Junta Jails Comedian for 45 Years
By SHARON OTTERMAN
Published: November 21, 2008
A secret court run by Myanmar’s military leadership sentenced a prominent Burmese comedian and activist to 45 years in prison on Friday, continuing a recent crackdown on regime dissidents.
The comedian, U Maung Thura, 47, better known by his stage name Zarganar, or The Tweezers, was detained last June after he organized a private assistance effort to help victims of the May cyclone that killed over 130,000 Burmese. Along with international aid organizations and Western governments, he criticized the government’s handling of the disaster.
Mr. Maung Thura’s conviction was handed down by a court in Yangon’s Insein prison, where many of the nation’s political prisoners are held. He was found guilty of violating a number of statutes, including the Electronic Act, which regulates all forms of electronic communication in the country. The act has increasingly been used by the ruling junta to justify long prison sentences against pro-democracy and other activists in the country, political observers said.
His prison term may be further lengthened when the court considers additional charges against him on Monday.
“He got 45 years for only three charges. More sentences will be passed on four remaining charges on Monday,” his sister-in-law, Ma Nyein, told Reuters.
In a government raid last June, authorities seized his computer and CDs containing footage the military government would prefer the world not see: images of the devastation wrought by the May 3 cyclone, as well as the opulent wedding of the youngest daughter of the junta’s leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe.
Following the cyclone, he coordinated an effort to deliver thousands of dollars in aid to remote villages in the Irrawaddy River delta. In an interview on May 19, Mr. Maung Thura said he would continue his work despite government threats.
“These are my people,” he said. “I want to save my own people. But the government doesn’t like our work. It is not interested in helping people. It just wants to tell the world and the rest of the country that everything is under control and that it has already saved its people,” he said.
Mr. Maung Thura has been jailed at least three times in the past two decades for his outspokenness and anti-regime satire, but for limited terms. His stage name refers to a Burmese call to audacity made popular during the nation’s anti-colonial struggle: “If you have hairs that stand up at times of fear, pull them out with the tweezers.”
Some 150 anti-regime activists have received prison sentences of from 2 to 65 years in the past three weeks. On Thursday alone, 35 regime critics were sentenced to long prison terms, including Ashin Gambira, a Buddhist monk and one of the leaders of the September 2007 anti-government protests, who was sentenced to a total of 68 years, the Web site Irrawaddy reported.
Those sentenced have included some 70 members of the opposition National League for Democracy, the party of the detained Nobel laureate, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Some of the most severe sentences were handed out to 23 members of the 88 Generation Students group, veteran activists who have been spearheading nonviolent protests for the past several years.
Bloggers, musicians and poets have also been sent to prison.
On Thursday, a well-known hip-hop singer, Zeyar Thaw, was jailed for six years, and 14 members of Ms. Suu Kyi’s party got two and a half years each for calling for her release on her birthday in June, said a party spokesman, Nyan Win, The Associated Press reported.
Choe Sang-hun contributed reporting.