Supporters of human rights campaigner James Mawdsley, currently serving a 17-year prison sentence in Burma, are protesting over a letter written by his captors to the US government. The Jubilee Campaign say that the Burmese authorities have written an "extraordinarily inaccurate" letter to the US Senate justifying the long jail term. On 9 June, five US senators wrote to the Burmese government calling for James' immediate release. In response, the Jubilee Campaign says, Colonel Thein Swe, head of department at the Ministry of Defence, "misrepresents and deliberately lies about James' actions in Burma in an attempt to undermine American support for him". They say: "The letter claims falsely that, on James' first visit to Burma, he shouted profanities and incited Burmese civilians to violence. In reality, he sprayed the word 'metta' on a pavement which means 'friendship and loving kindness'. In addition, Mr Mawdsley has never incited people to violence, taking Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's precept of non-violent protest as his guide." James' father, David Mawdsley, said: "We are shocked that the Burmese authorities have the audacity to write things which are so flagrantly untrue. While we are pleased that the Burmese authorities have responded to the American initiative as it indicates their recognition of outside opinion, we are very concerned that the lies, meant to discredit and undermine James' stand, are set straight soon. We are determined that truth and justice will prevail." The Burmese letter also stated that, in his most recent visit, James entered Burma illegally in association with terrorist groups and engaged in anti-government activity. But Jubilee says: "James was careful not to break the bond of his last release by obtaining a valid visa before entering, a fact that has been verified by the British authorities in Rangoon. James robustly denies anti-government activity as he does not consider that calling for an end to the genocide against the Karen people, requesting the reopening of the universities and dialogue with the National League of Democracy as anti-government." Despite requests from the Jubilee Campaign, the Foreign Office has refused to make representations to the Burmese authorities to counter the allegations made against James. Meanwhile, the admission hearing on 15 August in the High Court will hope to advance James' appeal that he did nothing that was illegal and therefore that the charges brought against him should be dropped. James first went to Burma in 1997 where he worked as a teacher with displaced Karen people. One day. he witnessed at first hand the violence meted out to minorities in Burma when the village where he was working was razed to the ground by soldiers and, together with hundreds of other villagers, he was forced to flee into the jungle, carrying children in his arms. Over 30,000 Karen have been killed by the military junta since 1992 as they continue their systematic genocide against the Karen, Karenni and Shan minority peoples. James made his demonstration on 31 August last year. Since then, the authorities have kept him in solitary confinement. The Jubilee Campaign is an interdenominational Christian human rights pressure group, which has worked with over 150 MPs. If you would like to know more about their work email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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