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Wellington man to be released from Myanmar prison

A New Zealand man who has been in prison in Myanmar since March last year is set to be released this week, after he was granted amnesty for his crime of insulting Buddha on his Facebook page.



Philip Blackwood used a picture of Buddah wearing earphones to promote the bar he managed in Myanmar, and so he, along with two co-accused, were found guilty in Yangon and sentenced to two years’ hard labour.

Blackwood and his colleagues were charged with breaching the Religion Act, after the picture caused locals to become outraged. He is now on the Myanmar Presidential Amnesty list and will be released, with the help of the New Zealand foreign ministry.

President Thein Sein, who is Myanmar’s outgoing leader, made the list of around 100 political prisoners to be released as one of his finals acts as president.

“So far, 18 political prisoners were released from Insein Prison. They will release a total of 21 people today,” a prison official told Reuters on Friday.

While Blackwood, from Wellington, was jailed for insulting Buddhism, many of the prisoners on the list were incarcerated for protesting the former military rule, which had been in place until 2011.

“Most of them were arrested for staging protests. As far as I know, there will be 101 political prisoners who will be released in the coming days,” said Bo Kyi, Joint Secretary of political prisoner watchdog the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), on the Daily Mail.



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