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Burmese-American Jailed for Fraud Released

Authorities in Burma have released a Burmese-American activist detained since September. His lawyer thinks international pressure was a key factor to his early release.

Kyaw Zaw Lwin, also known as Nyi Nyi Aung, was arrested in September just after arriving at Rangoon airport.

The pro-democracy activist was initially charged with plotting subversion, a charge that was later dropped, and for having a forged identity card and failing to declare foreign currency.

In February he was sentenced to three years in prison, but on Thursday he was unexpectedly released. The U.S. Embassy in Rangoon confirmed his release and welcomed the development.

Nyan Win was one of his lawyers during the trial. He was told his client was turned over to the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon and then deported.

"He was deported because of this government [is] afraid of the international pressure, [in] my opinion," he said.

A group of U.S. lawmakers in December sent a letter to the Burmese government urging his immediate release. The letter said the detention raised doubts about Burma's efforts to improve relations with the U.S.

Rights groups say the charges were trumped up to punish Kyaw Zaw Lwin for his political activities.

While in detention Kyaw Zaw Lwin held a two-week hunger strike in protest.

He fled to the United States after the failed pro-democracy uprising in the late 1980s.

His lawyers say he went to Burma hoping to see his ailing mother who has been in detention because of her own political activism.

The United Nations estimates there are more than 2,100 political prisoners held in Burma's jails.

A U.N. special envoy visited Burma in February and on Monday recommended the U.N. hold an inquiry into whether the military government has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.