Facebook post lands Patrick Khum Jaa Lee six month prison sentence

YANGON — Kachin peace activist Patrick Khum Jaa Lee was sentenced to six months imprisonment by Yangon’s Hlaing Township Court on Friday afternoon, over a Facebook post that purportedly defamed military Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

Taking into consideration the 99 days he has served in remand at Insein Prison, the 43-year-old will be eligible for release in early April.

Patrick Khum Jaa Lee was arrested in October after he was accused of sharing a photo on Facebook depicting a man in a Kachin-style longyi stepping on a photo of the military chief. His charge under Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law carried a maximum possible sentence of three years.

May Sabe Phyu, the wife of Patrick Khum Jaa Lee and head of the Gender Equality Network, was scathing of the verdict while speaking to reporters on Friday afternoon.

“I strongly believe this is an unfair judgement,” she said. “We have heard from witnesses and lawyers that there is no strong evidence he shared it.”

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“My husband is being made into an example. The military is sending a clear message that they will not allow criticism against them on social media.”

Constant concerns have been expressed for the health of Patrick Khum Jaa Lee, who suffers from high blood pressure and asthma, since his arrest and incarceration at Insein Jail. His fourth court appearance on November 23 was abruptly halted when he began struggling to breathe as a result of an apparent asthma attack.

The verdict came the same day as the announcement of a presidential amnesty, which saw the release of 101 prisoners across the country on Friday. At least 30 of those pardoned were incarcerated for political reasons, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

On Wednesday, over 20 police officers in Mandalay apprehended U Gambira, one of the most prominent figures from the 2007 Saffron Revolution, on an alleged violation of immigration rules.

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