US citizen in solitary confinement in Myanmar

AP News
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Posted: Dec 29, 2009 3:48 AM

An American jailed in Myanmar was placed in solitary confinement after ending a 12-day hunger strike, prompting the U.S. Embassy to request his return to a standard prison cell, an embassy official said Tuesday.

Myanmar-born Kyaw Zaw Lwin was arrested Sept. 3 when he arrived at Yangon airport and has been jailed since without facing formal charges.

He started a hunger strike on Dec. 4 to protest conditions of political prisoners in Myanmar, according to human rights groups.

Kyaw Zaw Lwin told a consular officer, who visited Monday, that he ended his hunger strike Dec. 15 and was subsequently placed in solitary confinement, said embassy spokesman Richard Mei.

Mei said the embassy sent a diplomatic note to authorities in the military-ruled country asking "to have him returned to a normal prison cell."

Kyaw Zaw Lwin, who is also known as Nyi Nyi Aung, said he was receiving regular medical care, Mei said. The U.S. Embassy was last granted consular access on Dec. 3.

"His health has improved and he looks much better than he did at our last meeting," said lawyer Nyan Win, who said the court based inside the notorious Insein Prison would decide Jan. 1 whether to charge him. Insein is known for holding political prisoners, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who was tried in the prison's court earlier this year and sentenced to another 18 months of house arrest.

When Kyaw Zaw Win made a court appearance in court on Dec. 18, lawyers said he looked thin and weak.

Kyaw Zaw Win was initially accused of trying to stir up unrest _ which he has denied. Prosecutors later asked the court to charge him with forgery and violating the foreign currency exchange act.

Under Myanmar's legal system, defense and prosecution spend initial sessions presenting their case so the judges can determine whether to formally charge the defendant and proceed with the trial. Nine prosecution witnesses have testified so far.

His mother is serving a five-year prison term for political activities and his sister was sentenced to 65 years in prison for her role in the 2007 pro-democracy protests, activist groups and family members said.