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2000: British activist freed from Burma

Human rights activist James Mawdsley has been released from prison in Burma after serving 415 days in solitary confinement.

The 27-year-old from Lancashire was sentenced to 17 years in Keng Tung jail in 1999 after being arrested for protesting against the military regime's slaughter of ethnic minorities and carrying pro-democracy leaflets.

Arriving at Bangkok airport, on route to London, he said: "I am out but the injustice continues".

Accompanied by his mother Diana Mawdsley who, along with the rest of his family, has constantly campaigned for her son's release, he added: "I am not ashamed to be 27 years-old and still being rescued by my mother".

Asked if he would return to Burma he said: "I've seen what I needed to see and I hope to build on that in different ways. I'm very glad that I went and I'm very glad to be out."

The release of the British campaigner comes just weeks after he was reportedly beaten by guards at the prison.


"I am out but the injustice continues"

James Mawdsley

The beating took place at the notorious Keng Tung prison where he was being held and left him with a broken nose and two black eyes. His food was also contaminated after he wrote slogans on his cell wall.

After announcing his release the Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said: "James' only crime was to highlight the suppression of ethnic minorities in Burma and to call for democratic change".

"I acknowledge the tireless efforts of his family, friends and others in campaigning for his release" he added.

Diana Mawdsley expressed her joy at her son's release saying: "The fact is that he is free. The past year has been very painful but because all of us understand why he's done what he has done, that has given us strength."

Mr Mawdsley is expected to arrive back in the UK on the 21 October.

In Context
James Mawdsley was first arrested in 1997 for spraying the word 'metta', meaning peace, on the wall of a school in Rangoon, Burma.

He was deported but returned in 1998 to make a second protest when he was arrested and held for 99 days.

He then returned in 1999, was arrested and sentenced to 17 years.

On his arrival at Heathrow Mr Mawdsley declared: "It's time genocide charges were brought against the regime in Burma".

Burma, also known as Myanmar, is still ruled by a military junta which suppresses almost all dissent and wields absolute power in the face of international condemnation and sanctions.

The generals and the army stand accused of gross human rights abuses, including the forcible relocation of civilians and the widespread use of forced labour, which includes children.


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