Eighteen foreign activists - including six Americans - were sentenced Friday to five years of hard labor for handing out pro-democracy leaf-lets but were to be deported from Myanmar within a day.
Moments after a judge sentenced the activists to prison, an official from the Ministry of Home Affairs read an order reducing the sentences and saying the activists would be deported on condition they not violate Myanmar laws again.He asked diplomats of the six Asian and Western nations from which the activists came to arrange for their deportations by Saturday morning.
The defendants, who appeared solemn when the judge read out the five-year sentence, jumped up, embraced each other, shook hands and thanked those in the courtroom after the deportation order was announced.
They were also embraced by diplomats from their respective countries who attended the one-day trial in a small concrete courthouse outside the walls of Insein Prison north of Yangon.
"We are thrilled. We are excited," said Callie Keegan, the mother of one of the detainees, Michele Keegan, 19.
"We knew this was going to happen, that the five-year sentence was going to be reduced. She'll be on the plane tomorrow," Callie Keegan said from her home in Trenton, N.J.
In Portsmouth, N.H., there also was rejoicing at the home of college student Anjanette Hamilton.
"We were in tears, and now we're jumping up and down with joy," said Jan Collier, Hamilton's aunt.
The U.S. Embassy said all 18 detainees would be leaving Yangon on Saturday for Bangkok and would spend their last night in the Myanmar capital in a police guest house.
The other American activists are Nisha Marie Anand, 21, of Atlanta, Joel Edward Greer, 34, Sapna Chat-pan, 20, and Tyler Richard Gianni, 28. All hometowns of the detainees were not immediately available.
The six Americans, three Malaysians, three Indonesians, three Thais, two Filipinos and one Australian were charged - after six days of questioning and investigation - with the 1950 Emergency Provision Act.