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Kolkata : The release of 34 Arakanese and Karen freedom fighters from the Presidency Jail in India's Kolkata is still uncertain, even though their final verdict passed down by the court calls for their freedom.
"They have already served their prison terms and their fines levied by the court are already paid, yet we have not heard any words that ensure their freedom from imprisonment by the Indian government," said an activist from Kolkata who has been helping with their case.
He also said that is has already been four months since the UNHCR examined their case and news came out that they are recognized refugees, but they have not yet received any official information regarding their status from the UNHCR.
"After all, the Indian government has widely violated their human rights by continuing to detain them," he said, adding that the government's delay to release them has also disappointed their well-wishers.
According to the opinion of U Aung Thein Naing, the organizing and information coordinator of the National United Party of Arakan, India's delay in releasing the freedom fighters is due to pressure from the Burmese regime.
"India is now greatly in need of Burma's natural resources, including gas from Arakan State, and it cannot overcome pressure by the Burmese government and release the freedom fighters, but continues to hold them in jail," said U Aung Thein Naing.
Background of their cases
The freedom fighters are 24 Arakanese and 10 Karen ethnics who fought for human rights and democracy for their homelands in Burma. They have been detained in India since February 1998 after the Indian spy agency lured them to Andaman and Nicobar Islands on the pretense of providing them a base of operations there.
Six of their leaders, known as Khine Raza, Saw Tun, Ran Naing, Lin Zan Khine, Phado Mhu Lway, and Saw Myint were killed in cold blood by Indian forces after arriving on the islands.
After detaining them for over 12 years in jail, their case was finally settled on 12 July, 2010, in the City Sessions Court in Kolkata when they agreed to accept a plea bargain with the Indian spy agency that was the main plaintiff in the case.
The judge of the court, Uday Chandra Nag, sentenced them to 3 years in prison on charges of illegal immigration and possessions of weapons and explosives, with a fine of 6,000 Rupee for each of them.
According to the judgment by the court, the 12 years they have already spent in jail have been counted as time served for their sentences and they were remanded to be held in jail for additional eight months if they failed to pay the fines to the court.
Their fines were paid to the court a month after their verdict, but eight months on, they are still being held behind bars with looming uncertainty for their release.