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Good News: Reduced sentence for Prisoner of Conscience in Myanmar

Story type:
Jun 16 2014 – 10:34am
Amnesty International AOTEAROA New Zealand
Dr Tun Aung, sentenced to 17 years’ imprisonment after an unfair trial, has been granted several reductions to his sentence © Amnesty International
Dr Tun Aung, sentenced to 17 years’ imprisonment after an unfair trial, has been granted several reductions to his sentence © Amnesty International

We can confirm that Dr Tun Aung (alias Dr Nurul Hoque) has been granted several reductions to his sentence, and according to the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) now has one year and one month left to serve in prison.

Dr Tun Aung, a community leader, doctor and family man, had been sentenced to 17 years’ imprisonment after an unfair trial.

He was arrested following riots which broke out between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in Maungdaw, western Myanmar in June 2012. Independent eyewitnesses confirmed that Dr Tun Aung actively tried to calm the crowd during the rioting and did not play any role in the violence. Nevertheless, he was convicted of inciting riots and of various other criminal offences. It is likely that the authorities were looking for people to blame in the aftermath of the violence. Dr Tun Aung may have been targeted because he is a Muslim community leader.

His case was featured in Amnesty International’s 2013 Write for Rights campaign, the world’s biggest human rights event. Thousands of people all over the globe wrote letters on behalf of Tun Aung and sent them to Myanmar’s President Thein Sein. We believe the positive developments in Dr. Tun Aung’s case come as a result of the ongoing campaigning of Amnesty – and others – for his release, including the over 100,000 appeals that were sent as part of the Letter Writing Marathon.

A member of Amnesty International received a letter from the MNHRC confirming that Dr Tun Aung was transferred to Insein prison on 6 February 2014. In the letter, signed and sent by Commissioner Secretary Sit Myaing and dated 29 May 2014, the MNHRC states that “Letter[s] from various chapters of Amnesty International requesting, among others, the immediate release of Dr Tun Aung without conditions were received by the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission. The Commission after proper examination of these letters conveyed them to the authorities in order that the concerns expressed in the letters receive carefully consideration”.

The letter continues: “With a view to obtaining first-hand information of Dr. Tun Aung, a team from the MNHRC visited Sittwe Prison on 11 November 2013 and had interviewed him exclusively to find out the situation”.

The letter states that Dr. Tun Aung was granted a nine year reduction to his sentence as a result of the December 2013 Presidential pardon and a further one year reduction as a result of a Presidential order of 20 January 2014. The letter also states that he received other reductions under the terms of the Prison Manual. According to the MNHRC, as a result of these reductions, Dr. Tun Aung now has one year and one month left to serve in prison. The MNHRC also asserts that Dr. Tun Aung is receiving regular medical attention while in Insein prison, including specialist medical treatment and that his family can visit him in prison.

This is a fantastic result in Dr. Tun Aung’s case. At one point he was facing 17 years in prison, now he is likely to be released in just over a year – but that is still not enough. This case shows that the authorities are susceptible to international pressure, and we will continue to urge the Myanmar government to immediately release Dr Tun Aung.