Australian Publisher Convicted in Burma, Sentenced to Time Served

Posted June 30th, 2011 at 5:55 am (UTC-5)
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A court in Burma has convicted Australian publisher Ross Dunkley on simple assault charges but released him in recognition of time served while awaiting trial.

Dunkley, the 55-year-old co-founder of the Myanmar Times, was arrested in February and spent six weeks in Burma's notorious Insein prison before being released on bail. The court Thursday handed down a one-month sentence on charges of having assaulted a 29-year-old Burmese woman.

The publisher was acquitted of having drugged the woman before attacking her, and of and other charges. But the judge said the conviction constituted an automatic violation of immigration laws and fined Dunkley an amount equal to about $125.

Dunkley had denied assaulting the woman, and associates charged the arrest was an attempt by Burmese authorities to seize control of the Myanmar Times, the country's only newspaper with foreign investment. The Australian citizen holds a 49-percent stake in the paper.

Dunkley's Burmese business partner, Tin Htun Oo, is currently in charge of the newspaper and told VOA in March that he has no dispute with Dunkley.

However the case has had a chilling effect on the publishers of other private newspapers in Burma, several of whom angered the country's rulers with their coverage of the release from house arrest last year of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.