Myanmar on Monday released a prominent Rohingya political prisoner after he was granted a presidential pardon.
Dr Tun Aung, 67, was sentenced to 17 years in prison after being convicted of inciting violence between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in western Myanmar in 2012.
The case sparked widespread condemnation from Western governments and rights monitors as Tun Aung’s trial was largely viewed as unfair.
Speaking to ucanews.com on Tuesday, Tun Aung said that as a community leader he had urged the Muslim community to “calm down” when violence erupted in Rakhine state in 2012.
“I didn’t play any role in [the] violence,” he said.
Tun Aung hailed the efforts of international and local rights groups in pursuing his release.
“I was released through the efforts of international rights groups and other organizations including the political prisoners reviewing committee in Myanmar,” he said.
“I was treated well … in Insein prison,” he added.
When asked whether he had received a fair trial, Tun Aung declined to comment on his specific case. But, he pointed out that Myanmar’s justice system has been frequently criticized by the international community for its lack of independence and impartiality.
Tun Aung’s pardon follows recent visits to Myanmar by senior US state department human rights envoy Tom Malinowski and the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Yanghee Lee, who met with the doctor in prison.
Bo Kyi, co-founder of Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), said Tun Aung’s release came about due to international pressure, and attached significance to the recent visits of US and UN envoys.
“The remaining political prisoners, activists and farmers who were imprisoned under the peaceful assembly law should be released unconditionally,” Bo Kyi told ucanews.com on Tuesday.
“The government needs to solve the problem the right way, and arresting activists is not the proper way,” said Bo Kyi.
According to AAPP’s latest figures, 27 political prisoners remain behind bars in Myanmar, while more than 100 activists are still facing trial. A total of 78 farmers have also been arrested for “trespassing”.