Courts in military-ruled Myanmar delivered a devastating blow Tuesday to the nation's pro-democracy movement, sentencing two dozen activists to harsh prison terms that will keep them behind bars long past a 2010 election.
Fourteen members of the Generation 88 Students group were sentenced to terms of 65 years each, and a labor activist, Su Su Nway, was sentenced to 121/2 years. Ten people allied with Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy got terms of eight to 24 years.
Many of the activists were involved in protests last year that led to huge pro-democracy demonstrations that the army put down by force. According to U.N. estimates, at least 31 people were killed and thousands of demonstrators were detained.
Most of the sentences were handed down in closed-court sessions. The lengths of the terms suggest the junta will pay little heed to calls from the U.N. and many Western nations to make its self-styled transition to democracy more fair and inclusive.
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Amnesty International and other human rights groups say the junta holds more than 2,100 political prisoners, up sharply from nearly 1,200 in June 2007 – before the pro-democracy demonstrations. The prisoners include Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest – as she has been on and off since 1989.