Myanmar frees Buddhist monk who led Saffron Revolution, drops charges

YANGON, Myanmar, July 1 (UPI) — A former Buddhist monk and activist who led the 2007 Saffron Revolution was released from prison Friday after last-minute criminal charges against him were dropped.

Nyi Nyi Lwin, better known by his ordination name U Gambira, was serving a six-month sentence after being convicted in January for crossing from Thailand into Myanmar without the proper documentation. Just before his scheduled release of July 1, the courts levied additional charges against him stemming from a 2012 alleged trespassing incident. If convicted on the new charges, his prison sentence would have been extended.

Amnesty International decried the new charges as a bid to keep Gambira behind bars, saying he “is a prisoner of conscience who should be immediately and unconditionally released.”

Following his release, Gambira said he was “very, very, very, happy now.” It is not clear why the charges were dropped.

Gambira came into the public eye in August 2007 as a key leader of the All-Burma Monks Alliance. He was instrumental in organizing economic and political protests in what became known as the Saffron Revolution. After the Burmese military crushed the protests, Gambira went into hiding, was eventually caught and sentenced to 68 years in prison.

He was released in January 2012 as part of a prisoner amnesty program and left the monkhood.

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