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Myanmar junta says to free over 800 prisoners

YANGON (AFP) – Myanmar’s junta yesterday announced an amnesty for more than 800 prisoners, as it held a parade and show of force in the capital to mark the country’s Union Day.

The country has been in turmoil since last year’s coup, with mass protests and a subsequent military crackdown that has killed more than 1,500 civilians, according to the United Nations’ (UN) human rights office.

Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing issued the “pardon order” – a regular feature of major holidays in the country – for 814 prisoners, state media said, marking the 75th Union Day.

The annual holiday commemorates an agreement between independence hero Aung San and several ethnic groups to form a Union of Burma independent of British rule.

Those given amnesty will be mostly from prisons in commercial hub Yangon, junta spokesperson Zaw Min Tun told AFP.

He did not say whether Australian academic Sean Turnell – who has been detained for more than a year – would be among those released.

The economics professor was working as an adviser to civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi when he was arrested last February, days after she was ousted by the military.

He has been charged with violating Myanmar’s official secrets law and faces a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison if found guilty.

About 100 people gathered outside Yangon’s Insein prison yesterday morning hoping to be reunited with loved ones, AFP correspondents said.

Police outside Insein Prison in Myanmar’s capital Yangon. PHOTO: AFP