Jailed American in Myanmar in 'poor health'

AP News
Posted: Dec 12, 2009 4:17 AM

A jailed U.S. citizen, on a protest hunger strike for more than a week in military-ruled Myanmar, was not able to appear in court because of poor health, his lawyers said Saturday.

Myanmar authorities have accused Myanmar-born Kyaw Zaw Lwin of entering Myanmar to stir up protests by Buddhist monks, who led pro-democracy demonstrations in 2007 that were brutally suppressed by the junta.

Arrested in September, he was charged with forgery and violating the foreign currency exchange act.

One of his lawyers, Kyi Win, said he was told by the judge that his client did not appear at a court session Friday because of "poor health." The session was adjourned for a week.

The Washington D.C.-based law firm, Freedom Now, which has also taken up his case, said in a release that Kyaw Zaw Lwin had been on a hunger strike since Dec. 4 to protest conditions of political prisoners in Myanmar.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Richard Mei said a consular official went to the court Friday and was told about the postponement.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said Friday that the United States has contacted the ruling junta to express its concern and make sure Kyaw Zaw Lwin was being well treated.

Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been under military rule since 1962. Human rights groups say the regime holds more than 2,000 political prisoners, including democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.