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Myanmar court hands hard-labor sentences to 6 already jailed

Activist Than Shwe, center, who protested in front of the Chinese Embassy in Yangon against a Chinese-backed copper mine project, is hugged by crying members of his family as he is escorted by Myanmar police officers upon arrival for his trial at a township court Friday, May 15, 2015, in Yangon, Myanmar. The court imposed new sentences with hard labor for six prominent activists who are already serving prison terms for their political activities. All six faced charges including disrupting public tranquility, deterring a public officer from carrying out his duty and for rioting and violating a peaceful assembly law for protesting outside the embassy last year. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)

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

All six faced charges including disrupting public tranquility, deterring a public officer from carrying out his duty and for rioting and violating a peaceful assembly law for protesting outside the Chinese Embassy last year.

They were protesting the shooting death last year of an opponent of a Chinese-backed copper mine.

The court sentenced all of them to 4 years and 4 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, who defiantly said that she will 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.

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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