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Last Updated: Monday, 31 January, 2005, 11:48 GMT
Burma rebels charged on Andamans
By Subir Bhaumik
BBC News, Calcutta

The jail on Port Blair holding the Arakanese
The Port Blair jail rocks from tsunami aftershocks, rebels say
India has finally charged 34 Arakanese separatist guerrillas from Burma who have spent seven years in jail in the Andaman islands.

They were charged with illegal entry and possessing weapons. The charges will not be heard until the Supreme Court hears a human rights petition.

The Arakanese say they had been helping the Indian army but were betrayed when India-Burma relations improved.

The army insists the Arakanese are gun runners but refuses to comment further.

Third country

The islands' chief judicial magistrate, Dharani Adhikari, says he will not pass judgment until the Supreme Court has met on 7 February.

We don't want to stay here in the Andamans. Every day there's earthquakes and the prison shakes
Theing Oung Gyaw,
detained rebel

The court will hear a petition from human rights lawyer, Nandita Haksar, asking for the release of the rebels and their safe passage to a third country.

Deportation to Burma would mean certain death, the lawyer argues.

The rebels belong to the Arakan Army, the military wing of the National Unity Party of Arakans.

It is fighting for independence for Burma's Arakan province.

The rebels were part of a group of 70 arrested on Landfall island. Many were fishermen who were later released.

Rebel fighter, Dynya Lun, said the group was "received by an Indian navy ship and escorted to Landfall island before we were betrayed by Indian military intelligence".

Officials at the Andaman and Nicobar military command told the BBC they would "not utter a word on this case since it is yet to be settled".

Rebel "corporal" Theing Oung Gyaw said: "We don't want to stay here in the Andamans. Every day there's earthquakes and the prison shakes."

Thousands are missing presumed dead in the Andaman and Nicobar island chain following the December 26 tsunami.

Country profile: Burma
08 Jan 05 |  Country profiles
Mass exodus from Indian islands
19 Jan 05 |  South Asia

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