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AP: Nichols Case

VVV2281 5 III 00760 -----
AP- BC-Burma, 1st Ld-Writethru 
 BC-Burma, 1st Ld-Writethru 
 Dead Consul Supported Freedoms Suu Kyi Fights For: Son 
 Eds: RECASTS throughout; UPDATES with Scandinavian countries
demanding investigation into death 
 Associated Press Writer=
   BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ A former Scandinavian consul and friend
of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi who suffered a reported
stroke in prison ``died at the hands of the military dictatorship
in Burma,'' his son charged Tuesday.
   Danish radio, meanwhile, reported that Denmark, Norway, Finland
and Sweden have demanded an investigation and full medical report
on the death of James Leander Nichols, who represented their
countries and Switzerland until 1978 as an honorary consul.
   Nichols, also known as Leo Nichols, was pronounced dead Saturday
in Rangoon General Hospital shortly after officials said they found
him unconscious in his cell. Human-rights groups say conditions at
the prison are deplorable and torture is common.
   William J. Nichols, his son, told The Associated Press that his
father was jailed because of his close friendship with Suu Kyi, who
has increasingly challenged the legitimacy of the regime since her
release from six years of house arrest last July.
   ``He may have died of natural causes, but the reaction of the
authorities leaves many unanswered questions,'' William Nichols, a
university lecturer in Australia, said in an e-mail message to The
Associated Press.
   Nichols, 65, was convicted of illegally possessing two fax
machines and a telephone switchboard, equipment tightly controlled
by the ruling junta known as the State Law and Order Restoration
   William Nichols said that according to private reports from
Burma, his father was moved to the hospital from the prison just an
hour before he died at 11 a.m. Saturday.
   ``A military-conducted autopsy, without independent monitoring,
found that (he) had died from a brain hemorrhage,'' William Nichols
   Nichols was of Greek and Burmese ancestry and came from a
prominent Rangoon business family.
   Joergen Reimers, Denmark's ambassador to Thailand, plans to
arrive Friday in Rangoon to obtain more information on the death, a
Danish Embassy official in Bangkok said.
   Nichols was sentenced May 21, days before the junta launched
mass arrests of Suu Kyi's supporters to stop a defiant congress of
her party. Not a political activist, Nichols nonetheless had helped
Suu Kyi by, for example, lending her a car after her release.
   William Nichols called his father a ``faithful and devoted
friend'' of Suu Kyi, the 1991 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for
her non-violent promotion of democracy.
   ``His three-year sentence was in reality punishment for loving
and helping Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,'' William Nichols said. Daw is a
Burmese honorific.
   The military warned Nichols' relatives not to attend his funeral
last Sunday, said William Nichols. The family plans a memorial
service June 30 in Rangoon ``provided permission is obtained from
the authorities.''
   Even after giving up his duties as honorary consul, Nichols
served informally in representing the Scandinavian countries in
Rangoon, his son said.
   An honorary consul performs low-level diplomatic duties, like
receiving visa applications, for countries that otherwise might not
have representation. At the time Nichols served, Burma was isolated
from most of the world by an earlier military dictatorship.
   Denmark has complained that Nichols received poor medical care
in prison despite appeals made to free him because of bad health.
He was well known to suffer heart problems and diabetes.
   William Nichols said his father had devoted the last decades of
his life to helping the poor and supported orphans through the
local Roman Catholic Church.
   Burma's state-controlled press has made no mention of Nichols'
death but continued Tuesday to assail Suu Kyi, who has challenged
the regime to step down in the past month despite the mass arrests
and new laws under which her party can be quickly banned.
   The New Light of Myanmar said Suu Kyi's decision to pull her
National League for Democracy out of a military-run constitutional
convention last November was done on the direct orders of Madeleine
Albright, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
   Albright visited Burma last year and met separately with Suu Kyi
and Gen. Khin Nyunt, a powerful figure in the junta. Albright
forcefully urged him to open a dialogue with Suu Kyi. The general
was reportedly upset with Albright's lack of respect.
251327 Jun GMT