Myanmar court hands hard-labor sentences to 6 activists

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YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — A Myanmar court imposed new sentences with hard labor for six prominent activists who are already serving prison terms for political activities.

All six were charged in connection with a protest they attended last year outside the Chinese Embassy to demand an investigation into the shooting death of an opponent of a Chinese-backed copper mine.

The court on Friday sentenced them to four years and four months imprisonment with hard labor. Their previous sentences were for violating the peaceful assembly law with their political activities.

"The sentences are very unfair and we are dissatisfied with the verdict. This is a violation of citizens' rights," said one of the convicted activists, Naw Ohn Hla. She said she would continue to fight for the rights of the people when she is freed.

"The government deliberately gives a lengthy prison sentence because they want to lock up activists during the election," Naw Ohn Hla said, referring to general elections coming in November.

The Swiss-based International Commission of Jurists condemned what it called "an unfair trial lasting less than five minutes," and urged Myanmar authorities to drop the charges.

Myanmar emerged from a half-century of military rule with a new government in 2011 that has implemented several political and economic reforms. It freed many junta-era prisoners but has arrested hundreds of activists anew who are charged with breaking several criminal laws.

An independent political prisoner association has tallied 158 prisoners of conscience and 450 others facing trial in Myanmar for their political activities as of May.

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