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Myanmar Muslim gets 26 years in jail

Attack on Buddhist woman sparked days of violence

Myanmar Muslim gets 26 years in jail

A soldier cleans up a market gutted by fire after rioting in Lashio (Ye Aung Thu / AFP)

AFP, Myanmar
Myanmar

June 12, 2013

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A Muslim man has been sentenced to 26 years in prison for an attack on a Buddhist woman that sparked a fresh outbreak of religious violence last month in the former army-ruled nation, police said today.

The man, who has been described by state media as a 48-year-old drug addict, was convicted of intent to kill, assault and drug use by a court in Lashio in eastern Shan State yesterday, Police Major Moe Zaw Linn said.

The 24-year-old victim, a petrol vendor, suffered burns in the attack, which triggered Buddhist-Muslim riots in the town that left at least one person dead and saw a mosque and orphanage burned.

"We have arrested about 60 people found by security forces with sticks and knives during the violence," Moe Zaw Linn said, adding that the Muslim man was the first person to be convicted.

Several episodes of religious unrest -- mostly targeting Muslims -- have exposed deep rifts in the Buddhist-majority country and cast a shadow over widely praised political reforms since military rule ended two years ago.

In March dozens of people were killed in sectarian strife in central Myanmar, and thousands of homes were set ablaze.

Ten Muslims have been sentenced to prison terms of up to 28 years in connection with the March violence in the central town of Meiktila, where no Buddhists are yet known to have been convicted.

Communal unrest last year in the western state of Rakhine left about 200 people dead and 140,000 displaced, mainly Rohingya Muslims. AFP

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