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Myanmar junta frees 700 prisoners, drops charges against 24 celebrities

Relatives wait in front of Insein prison for the release of prisoners in Yangon, Myanmar, on June 30, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Myanmar’s military authorities say they have released hundreds of detainees from a prison in the country’s largest city, Yangon, and dropped charges against dozens of celebrities who had been declared wanted for criticizing the junta.

Prison chief Zaw Zaw told Reuters that around 700 prisoners had been released from Yangon’s Insein jail on Wednesday.

Zaw Zaw said he did not have a list of those being released, but according to BBC’s Burmese-language news, people accused of incitement were also among those who had been freed.

Across the country, the junta plans to release some 2,000 people, according to Myanmar Now news portal.

More than 5,200 people are being held in detention, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) activist group. AAPP says 883 people have been killed during anti-coup protests since the junta ousted the government of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and launched a brutal crackdown on protests across the country.

Suu Kyi, along with other members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party, has been in detention since the coup.

On Tuesday, the judge in the trial of Suu Kyi rejected a motion to dismiss evidence central to a case that could see her jailed for up to two years for incitement, according to her legal team.

She faces a raft of charges ranging from bribery and flouting coronavirus restrictions to illegally possessing two-way radios and incitement to commit crimes against the state. Her defense team has rejected the allegations.

Also on Tuesday, the junta said it had dropped charges against 24 celebrities who had been declared wanted for opposing the junta. The military regime said charges against them had been dropped because their involvement had been the result of “external factors.”

Actors, sportspeople, social media influencers, doctors, and teachers were in the list of those celebrities.

Some 120 celebrities are wanted under Myanmar’s anti-incitement law.

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