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Burma's President Pardons 2 UN Staffers, Another Aid Worker

Tomas Ojea Quintana, U.N. human rights envoy to Burma, talks to journalists during a press conference at Rangoon International Airport, Burma, August 4, 2012. (AP)
Burmese President Thein Sein has pardoned two U.N. personnel and a third aid worker who were sentenced to prison last week for their alleged involvement in a deadly outbreak of Buddhist-Muslim violence in June.

The Burmese presidential office said Tuesday that Thein Sein granted the pardon to the three aid workers employed by the U.N.'s World Food Program, the U.N. refugee agency, and a Burmese non-government organization affiliated to the refugee agency. All three are Burmese Muslims. A U.N. official in New York said the two staffers had been released and had expressed hope the aid worker also would be freed.

A court in western Burma's Rakhine state had sentenced the aid workers to prison terms of two to six years on Friday, after convicting them on charges including arson and inciting unrest between majority Buddhists and minority Rohingya Muslims. Burmese officials have said at least 80 people were killed in a wave of Buddhist-Muslim violence in Rakhine that began in June.

On Monday, U.N. envoy for Burma's human rights situation Tomas Ojea Quintana had told VOA's Burmese service that the Burmese government should release the three detainees immediately.

Quintana said the allegations against the U.N. staff were unfounded. He also said many of the aid workers, recently detained by Burmese authorities in connection with the violence, did not have a chance to consult a lawyer, present evidence or cross-examine witnesses.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.