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UK's Former Ambassador, Spouse Jailed for a Year in Myanmar, Sources Say

FILE - In this image made from video by Radio Free Asia, former British Ambassador Vicky Bowman talks to reporters in Yangon, Myanmar, on Sept. 5, 2014. (Radio Free Asia via AP)

Courts in military-ruled Myanmar have sentenced a former British ambassador to the country and her Burmese spouse to a year in prison for violating immigration laws, two sources and a news portal said Friday.

Vicky Bowman, who runs an organization that promotes ethical business practices in Myanmar, and her husband, Htein Lin, an artist and former political prisoner, were arrested August 24 for staying at an address different than the one she had registered under.

Several foreigners, including U.S., British, Japanese and Australian citizens, are among those who have been held since the military seized power last year, arrests that human rights groups say are designed to discourage dissent and create a climate of fear.

The Myanmar Now news site reported the verdict. The sentences were confirmed to Reuters by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an activist group that tracks detentions, and a source with knowledge of the ruling, who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to media.

The military government and Britain's embassy in Myanmar did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The junta has been condemned globally for holding secretive trials with tough sentences, including that of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was found guilty of electoral fraud Friday and given a further three years in prison, according to a source close to proceedings.

The junta insists the courts are independent and that those jailed have broken the law.

Bowman, 56, was ambassador to the former British colony from 2002 to 2006 under a previous military government.

Htein Lin, 55, is one of Myanmar's most famous artists and a veteran activist who spent more than six years in prison two decades ago for opposing military rule.

Ming Yu Hah, Amnesty International's deputy regional director for campaigns, said news of their sentencing was extremely concerning.

"We have seen activists, artists, journalists, students, business owners and medical professionals arbitrarily detained and jailed by the military on the slightest pretext," she said.

"Myanmar's military has a notorious track record of arresting and jailing people on politically motivated or trumped-up charges."