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Page last updated at 12:04 GMT, Tuesday, 23 September 2008 13:04 UK

Burmese democracy veteran freed

Win Tin being received by friends after his release from Insein Prison
Win Tin was Burma's longest serving political prisoner

One of Burma's most prominent political detainees, Win Tin, has been freed after 19 years in detention.

He was reportedly one of 9,000 prisoners amnestied by the Burmese military in a gesture of what state media describe as "loving kindness".

"I will keep fighting until the emergence of democracy in this country," he said after his release.

Now 79 years old, Win Tin was among the founders of the National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

The NLD party won elections in 1989, but was prevented from taking power by Burma's generals.

Poet

Win Tin was Burma's longest-serving political prisoner, according to the UN and human rights groups which had repeatedly called for his release.

A poet, editor and close aide to Ms Suu Kyi, he was originally arrested in July 1989.

Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi is still under house arrest in Rangoon
Once in jail, he received additional sentences for agitating against the military junta and distributing propaganda.

After 19 years in the notorious Insein prison, he emerged on Tuesday unbowed, promising to continue his fight for democracy.

"I will continue with politics as I am a politician," he told reporters.

"I do not accept this constitution," he said, referring to a military-backed charter passed earlier this year and criticised heavily by the NLD.

Family members said Win Tin was in "good health" despite recent reports of illness.

'Goodwill'

Win Tin was released on the same day that thousands of other prisoners were reportedly set free.

The Myanmar Times, a state-censored newspaper in Rangoon, said the military government was releasing 9,002 prisoners as a gesture of "loving kindness and goodwill".

Dissident groups said they did not know whether any other political prisoners were included in that number apart from Win Tin.

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International said in August that 2,000 political prisoners were currently behind bars in Burma.

The most prominent is Aung San Suu Kyi herself, who has been in jail or under house arrest for most of the last 19 years.






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