Student activists detained during a march to Yangon last year are finally leaving prison today, after more than a year behind bars.
All but five were released from Thayarwady prison in central Myanmar this afternoon after charges were dropped.
There were some pretty joyful scenes as the court announced the verdict.
It comes a day after Aung San Suu Kyi announced she intended to free political prisoners in the country – a sensitive issue for her party, the National League for Democracy, many of whose members spent long periods in jail for activism under the former ruling military junta.
Many of the freed student activists were arrested in Letpadan after a violent crackdown on their march from Mandalay to Yangon, intended as a protest against controversial education reform.
They are planning to gather at Shwedagon Pagoda, the holiest Buddhist site in Myanmar, this evening according Ne Win, the father of student leader Phyo Phyo.
“They are planning to come to Shwedagon. But Phyo Phyo Aung and two other students will still be in Thayarwaddy as they still have to face another case at another court in Yangon,” he said.
Several activists who are facing charges in other courts, including Phyo Phyo Aung, are still in prison waiting for those charges to be dropped.
“Today’s release of most of the student protesters is a huge step forward for human rights in Myanmar, and we are delighted that these men and women will walk free,” said Laura Haigh, Myanmar researcher for Amnesty International, said in a statement. “It sends a strong message about the new government’s intention to end the cycle of political arrest and detention in Myanmar. We are now looking forward to the release of all other prisoners of conscience – including those students who are facing charges in other courts. The new government must ensure that no prisoner of conscience is left behind.”