31 Suu Kyi sympathisers freed from Kolkata jail



Kolkata: After spending more than 13 years in jail, 31 out of 34 Myanmar's pro-democracy activists were released from a Kolkata prison Thursday, said a Myanmarese supporter.

"Thirty four sympathisers of Myanmar's pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi were languishing in Alipore Presidency Correctional Home since 2006 even though no case was pending against them but they could not be released as they sought asylum in India. But today (Thursday), 31 out of 34 activists were released while three will be sent to Port Blair to clear the court case," said Soe Myint, a court-appointed interpreter for the activists.

"We believe that three will be freed soon and all will continue the struggle for democracy and human rights in Mayanmar," Myint said.

All the 34 Myanmarese nationals, arrested February 1998 from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands on charges of carrying arms and ammunition, were brought to the city in September 2006 after a human rights activist moved the court.

The case was settled in a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court after a plea bargain. The accused were given a sentence of one year and three months and fined Rs.6,000 each. As they had already served the term, they paid the fine.

In the agreement reached between the 34 Mayanmarese and the CBI, it was mentioned that they do not want to be deported, fearing they may be killed or imprisoned for participating in the Myanmarese pro-democracy movement and requested the court that they be allowed to stay in India as refugees.

"But then they were not released as they did not have any passport or travel document or any legal permit (such as residential permit) to stay in India," said Myint.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) accepted their application for refugees' status and issued 'under consideration' certificates to each of them in December last year. In January 2011, UNHCR with the permission of the Indian government interviewed them individually in the correctional home for determining their refugee status.

In March 2011, the UNHCR under its mandate granted refugee status to them, said Myint.

IANS