FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 3, 2015 | USCIRF
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) commends the release of activist Dr. Tun Aung and urges the government of Burma to release other prisoners of conscience in fulfillment of the promises of President Thein Sein.
“USCIRF welcomes the release of Dr. Tun Aung from Burmese custody,” said USCIRF Chair Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett. “However, we continue to advocate for the unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience from Burma’s jails and urge authorities to act promptly in fulfilling President Thein Sein’s pledge to release all political prisoners by the end of 2013, a promise yet to be realized. In fact, over the last year, more people have been jailed for the peaceful expression of their beliefs.”
USCIRF had been working in conjunction with the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International USA through the Defending Freedoms Project to gain the release of Dr. Tun Aung and now for the release of Ko Htin Kyaw, Ko Tin Maung Kyi, and Ko Zaw Win.
The Defending Freedoms Project, created in 2013, partners with Members of Congress to increase support and attention to cases of prisoners of conscience worldwide. Representative Aaron Schock (R-IL) had adopted Dr. Tun Aung and worked diligently for his release.
The January 19 release of Dr. Tun Aung followed mounting pressure from the international community for the activist’s release. Dr. Tun Aung, a respected medical doctor and leader among the Rohingya Muslim community, was arrested in 2012 after attempting to pacify an angry crowd of rioters involving both Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims. The Burmese government blamed him for the resulting violence due to his status as a community leader, and detained him. Following an unfair trial, he subsequently was sentenced to 17 years behind bars in Burma’s notorious Insein Prison.
“Dr. Tun Aung’s case is not unique,” said Lantos Swett. “There are countless prisoners of conscience who remain languishing in Burmese jails, and USCIRF is particularly concerned about the continued detention of human rights defenders Ko Htin Kyaw, Ko Tin Maung Kyi, and Ko Zaw Win from the Movement for Democracy Current Force, a peaceful human rights organization operating in Burma. They were imprisoned in 2014 for peacefully protesting restrictions on expression and assembly.”
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