TOKYO (Reuters) – A court in military-ruled Myanmar has sentenced a Japanese documentary filmmaker to 10 years in prison for violating sedition and communications laws, a Japanese foreign ministry official said on Thursday.
Toru Kubota, 26, was arrested in July at a protest in Myanmar’s main city of Yangon. At the time, it was reported he faced charges of breaking an immigration law and encouraging dissent against the ruling military.
Kubota was on Wednesday sentenced to three years in prison for sedition and seven years for violating a law on telecommunications, the ministry official said, citing the filmmaker’s lawyer.
However, he was expected to serve the sentences concurrently, media in Myanmar reported, citing the junta’s communications team.
A court hearing on his alleged violation of the immigration control law was scheduled for Oct. 12, the Japanese ministry official said.
“We have been asking Myanmar authorities for Mr. Kubota’s early release, and we intend to keep on doing so,” he said.
Calls to a Myanmar military spokesperson seeking comment were not answered. The junta says Myanmar’s courts are independent and those arrested are receiving due process.
Myanmar has been trapped in a spiral of violence since the military overthrew an elected government last year. The junta has arrested thousands including politicians, bureaucrats, students, journalists, and foreigners as it attempts to smother dissent.
A Japanese freelance journalist was arrested last year and charged with spreading false news in his coverage of anti-coup protests. He was later freed with the junta saying his release was in recognition the two countries’ close ties.
(Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor, Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Robert Birsel)