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Amnesty Calls for Release of Political Detainees in Burma


Amnesty International has called for the immediate release of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The call comes during a day of global protest as rallies in 12 cities protest the democracy leader's 12 years of detention. Tendai Maphosa has more in this report for VOA from London.

Calling Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi an iconic symbol of Burma's political resistance, Amnesty International's Secretary General Irene Khan said her release would be a significant step forward.

Khan called for the international community to maintain pressure on the Burmese government to release the nobel laureate, the thousands of people recently detained for participating in peaceful protests, and long-standing prisoners of conscience in Burma.

Burmese soldiers opened fire in Rangoon last month on thousands of peaceful anti-government protesters, including Buddhist monks. At least 10 people were killed and thousands arrested in Rangoon and other cities. Pro-democracy activists say the death toll was much higher.

Amnesty's Catherine Baber told VOA that the organization continues to get reports of persecution by military authorities. She said some of the detained are being sentenced in unfair trials conducted behind prison bars, where they are mistreated and tortured.

"Our focus is on human rights improvement and these cannot wait for the conclusion a political process," she said. "It is really essential that the Myanmar authorities immediately release all prisoners of conscience, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and other senior political prisoners from ethnic groups. It is also essential that they open up detention centers to independent observers and stop sentencing people who have participated in peaceful protests."

Earlier in the week, Burmese officials agreed to allow the U.N. special investigator for human rights, Paul Sergio Pinheiro, into Burma to learn more about the military's recent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. They also agreed to another visit by Abraham Gamberi, the U.N. special envoy for Burma.

Meanwhile, rallies scheduled for 12 cities across Asia, the United States and Europe have begun to mark the 12th year of Aung San Suu Kyi's detention.

Other women who have won the Nobel Peace Prize also are urging the United Nations to take decisive action to secure her release. In an open letter, they called Aung San Suu Kyi's detention the most visible sign of the brutality of Burma's military government.

Aung San Suu Kyi won the prize in 1991. She has spent 12 of the past 18 years in prison or under house arrest.