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Japanese filmmaker Toru Kubota sentenced to 10 years in Myanmar

Armed anti-riot police stand guard as demonstrators flash the three-finger salute, a symbol of resistance, during a protest against the military, in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, February 8, 2021. Japanese documentary filmmaker Toru Kubota was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Wednesday for filming such protests. Photo by Stringer/EPA-EFE
Armed anti-riot police stand guard as demonstrators flash the three-finger salute, a symbol of resistance, during a protest against the military, in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, February 8, 2021. Japanese documentary filmmaker Toru Kubota was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Wednesday for filming such protests. Photo by Stringer/EPA-EFE

Oct. 6 (UPI) -- A Myanmar military court sentenced Japanese documentary filmmaker Toru Kubota to 10 years in prison for violating its sedition laws on Wednesday.

The military, which seized control of the country in a coup in 2021, arrested Kubota on July 30 while he was recording a demonstration against authorities. The military has faced consistent widespread protests since taking control of the country.

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Authorities charged that Kubota entered the country on a tourist visa and not a journalist visa and was actively participating in the demonstration. Another hearing on his violating the country's immigration law will be held on Wednesday.

"We are aware that the trial of Mr. Toru Kubota, who is being detained in Insein Prison in Yangon, took place on Oct. 5," Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement, according to the New York Times.

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"The government of Japan will continue to appeal to the Myanmar authorities for the early release of Mr. Kubota. In addition, from the perspective of protecting Japanese nationals, the government of Japan has been providing support, such as consular visits and contacting his family, and will continue to take appropriate responses as much as possible."

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Amnesty International's Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns Ming Yu Hah called for Kubota's immediate release.

"Filming a protest is not a crime," Ming said in a statement. "Myanmar's military should release Toru Kubota immediately and let him go home. It should also drop charges against and release all journalists arrested and sentenced simply for doing their job.

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"It is extremely dangerous to be a journalist in Myanmar today, where military authorities regularly trample on the right to freedom of information and media. Since seizing power in the coup last year, they have banned media outlets, arrested, beaten, sexually assaulted and even killed journalists in custody."

Kubota was sentenced to three years in prison on charges of incitement and seven years for violating a law on electronic communications.

"He is one of more than 15,000 people arrested since Myanmar's military coup on Feb. 1, 2021," Amnesty International said in a statement. "Amnesty International continues to call for the release of anyone arbitrarily detained in Myanmar for peacefully exercising their human rights."

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