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Burma releases jailed US activist Nyi Nyi Aung

Monks protesting in Rangoon, Burma, on 26 September 2007

Burma's military authorities have freed and deported a US activist jailed last month for three years.

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

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

In December a group of 50 US lawmakers issued a joint call asking for him to be freed.

Nyi Nyi Aung, also known as Kyaw Zaw Lwin, left Burma on a Thailand-bound plane. The reason for his early release was not clear.

Health problems

"We can confirm that Kyaw Zaw Lwin has been released from prison and has left the country," the US embassy said in a statement. "We welcome that development."

After fleeing his home country, Nyi Nyi Aung 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'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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