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Myanmar jails Suu Kyi supporters
Supporters of Myanmar's main opposition party imprisoned for "insulting religion".
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2009 07:30 GMT
Aung San Suu Kyi turned 64 in Yangon's Insein prison on the weekend [AFP]

Two members of Myanmar's main opposition party have been sentenced to 18 months in prison for "insulting religion", after they prayed for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

The sentencing comes before the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), resumes this week.

The 64-year-old Nobel laureate is accused of violating the terms of her house arrest.

Nyan Win, an NLD spokesman, said Chit Pe and Aung Saw Wai, were both sentenced last week.

Chit Pe and Aung Saw Wai were arrested at their homes in April after they led a religious ceremony at a pagoda in Twante, about 40km west of Yangon, the former capital.

'Insulting religion'

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The authorities in Myanmar have frequently enforced a law against insulting religion - which carries a penalty of up to two years in prison -  since Buddhist monks led protests against the military government in September 2007.

However, supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi have traditionally prayed at pagodas for her freedom and for the release of the country's other political prisoners.

The government of Myanmar has kept Aung San Suu Kyi in detention for 13 of the past 19 years, after refusing to recognise the NLD's landslide victory in the country's last elections in 1990.

She is currently being held in Yangon's Insein prison on charges of breaching her house arrest rules in May, when an American man swam uninvited to her lakeside residence.

Opposition supporters and Western governments critical of Myanmar have condemned the trial, labelling it a pretext for the government to keep Aung San Suu Kyi in detention beyond national elections it has scheduled for next year.

The government says the vote will mark the culmination of Myanmar's "roadmap to democracy," but critics say the regulations surrounding the election mean it will only cement continued military control.

Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962.

Source:
Agencies
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