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NEWS- Myanmar to Prosecute Western

Myanmar to Prosecute Western Protester


         YANGON, May 11 (Reuters) - A
         Westerner will go on trial on
         Wednesday in the Myanmar
         capital Yangon, accused of
         entering the country illegally to
         distribute anti-government

         James Rupert Russell Mawdsley,
         24, who holds British and
         Australian passports, appeared at
         a pre-trial hearing in Yangon on
         Monday and calmly heard a
         prosecuting official testify that he
         had entered the country illegally in

         Presiding judge U Than Htwe said
         a trial would begin on Wednesday
         in the northern district court near
         Insein jail in Yangon. Mawdsley
         will be charged with violating
         Myanmar immigration laws. 

         ``He came to Mawlamyine (in
         Myanmar) from Mae Sot in
         Thailand through an illegal route
         without permission, passport or
         visa, violating section 3 of the
         Myanmar immigration act and he
         therefore will be charged under
         the said act,'' a Myanmar
         immigration officer told the court. 

         If found guilty, Mawdsley could
         face a prison term of six months
         to five years, a fine of 1,500 kyat
         ($250), or both. 

         The British and Australian
         ambassadors, who attended
         Monday's hearing, were trying to
         organise legal representation for
         Mawdsley, consular officials told

         State-controlled Myanmar
         newspapers have accused
         Mawdsley of being a foreign
         mercenary working for dissident
         groups opposed to the ruling
         Myanmar military junta. 

         One of those groups, the All
         Burma Students Democratic
         Front, said last week that
         Mawdsley disregarded its advice
         and entered Myanmar in April to
         distribute anti-government
         literature and actively seek arrest. 

         His aim was to draw attention to
         human rights abuses by the
         Myanmar government and its
         suppression of an opposition
         pro-democracy movement, it said. 

         Mawdsley was previously arrested
         by the Myanmar authorities in
         September last year for chaining
         himself to a fence in central
         Yangon and shouting
         anti-government slogans. He was
         subsequently deported.