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Myanmar releases hundreds of post-coup prisoners

March 24, 2021

Myanmar's military says it has released more than 600 prisoners arrested on various alleged infractions since the February 1 coup.

Myanmar Rangun | Festgenommene Demonstranten im Bus
The prisoners demonstrated the three-finger salute adopted by the pro-democracy movement on leaving prison in busesImage: AP Photo/picture alliance

Witnesses said hundreds imprisoned after last month's coup were freed on Wednesday in what appeared to be the first gesture by Myanmar's military to placate persistent protesters.

Several full buses drove from Yangon's notorious Insein Prison. Myanmar state television said 628 people had been released.

Most of them were students previously held at police stations and prisons, reported the news portal Myanmar Now.

Arrested protesters wave to people while onboard a bus that is part of a convoy of buses getting out of Insein prison and will transport them to an undisclosed location Wednesday, March 24, 2021 in Yangon, Myanmar.
Several buses left the prison in Yangon on WedensdayImage: AP Photo/picture alliance

The Associated Press said one of its journalists, photographer Thein Zaw, had told his family that he was being released. 

He had been among nine media workers taken into custody during a February 27 street protest in Yangon and charged with violating public order law.

In all, about 40 journalists have been detained since the military's February 1 coup.

Thein Zaw told AP by phone that the judge handling his case had dropped all charges against him because he been doing his job at the time of his arrest. He had photographed police charging toward anti-coup protesters.

At least 2,000 people have been arrested since the coup, according to the activist group The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

Report: Five shot dead in Mandalay

On Tuesday in Mandalay, at least five people were shot dead, including a 7-year-old girl, according to Myanmar Now.

Since the coup's onset, AAPP says it has confirmed the killings of 275 people in connection with the military's post-coup crackdown. 

A lawyer for ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi said her court hearing had been delayed until April 1, the second successive postponement. 

Suu Kyi, who was arrested as the military seized power on February 1, faces charges that include the allegedly illegal import of six handheld radios and breaching coronavirus protocols.

EU sanctions junta associates

On Monday, EU foreign ministers approved sanctions on 11 individuals, including the Myanmar junta's chief Min Aung Hlaing.

He faces an assets freeze and visa ban for "undermining democracy and the rule of law" in Myanmar, said the EU.

Myanmar's military, officially known as the Tatmadaw, controls two commercial conglomerates with interests ranging from mining to banking.

ipj/msh (AP, Reuters, dpa)