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NOVEMBER 28, 2003
Updated: May 19, 2004

Zaw Thet Htway, First Eleven

Zaw Thet Htway, editor of the Burmese sports magazine First Eleven, was sentenced to death for high treason with eight other individuals, including a lawyer and a member of an opposition party, at a special court in Insein Jail near the capital, Rangoon. Burma's Supreme Court commuted Zaw Thet Htway's death sentence on May 12, 2004, and reduced his sentence to a three-year prison term.

Zaw Thet Htway has been detained since July 17, 2003, when military intelligence officers raided the magazine's offices and arrested him and four other First Eleven journalists, who were soon released. According to exile groups, the officers beat Zaw Thet Htway during the arrest.

The eight other defendants, who are not journalists, received the death penalty and were also arrested in mid-July. According to The Associated Press (AP), the government accused all nine of plotting to overthrow Burma's ruling junta, and of being involved with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy Party.

In June, First Eleven had received a government warning after it published an article that month questioning how grant money from the international community for the development of soccer in the country had been spent, according to The Irrawaddy, a Bangkok-based news magazine run by exiled Burmese journalists.
At the time of Htway's conviction, the harsh ruling was seen as a warning to other journalists, although death sentences are rarely carried out in Burma. Of the nine people sentenced to death last year, five had their sentences commuted to life terms, and four others, including Htway, will now serve three-year sentences, according to Radio Free Asia.

Htway spent several years in jail in the 1990s because of his work with the Democratic Party for a New Society, a banned political party now operating in exile.