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Burma jails US citizen who was 1988 student activist

Monks protesting in Rangoon, Burma, on 26 September 2007

A Burmese court has sentenced a US citizen to three years in prison for fraud and forgery, despite calls by 50 US lawmakers for his release.

Rights activist Nyi Nyi Aung was convicted for forging an identity card, failing to declare currency at customs and violating immigration law.

The 40-year old activist was arrested in September.

He had been a student activist in the 1988 uprising against military rule and had returned to Burma on a US passport.

"We will appeal the sentence," said his lawyer Nyan Win, who also represents the country's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Activist family

In December, more than 50 US lawmakers wrote to Burmese leader Than Shwe, urging him to release the Burma-born detainee from prison amid concerns about his health.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch has also called for his release and said the charges - which he denied - were "trumped-up" by the regime.

After fleeing his home country, he arrived in the US as a refugee and gained a computer science degree. He was on his fifth trip back to Burma when he was arrested.

His lawyers say he was deprived of food, sleep, medical treatment and US consular access in his first two weeks of detention.

His fiancee and his Washington-based lawyer said in December he had gone on a hunger strike to demand better conditions for political prisoners and was in deteriorating health.

Nyi Nyi Aung, also known as Kyaw Zaw Lwin, was sentenced to three years in prison for forging a national identity card and one year each on the other charges, sentences which the judge said should be served concurrently.

The charges could have led to a sentence of up to 12 years' imprisonment.

Nyi Nyi Aung's mother is believed to be in failing health while she serves a five-year jail sentence in a remote jail for her involvement in a 2007 uprising.

Two cousins are also in jail, one for more than 65 years, and a sibling is in exile in Thailand.



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