Jumma leader sentenced to 17 years in jail

July 27, 2007

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Ranglai Mro, a Jumma leader from the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh, has been sentenced to 17 years in jail after protesting against the eviction of his people from their land to make way for an army training centre.

Ranglai Mro was arrested and tortured by the police and army in February and charged with possessing illegal firearms. It is thought that the charges were invented in retaliation for his defence of the Mru’s rights to their land.

750 Mru (or Mro) families were evicted from their land in remote villages of the Bandarban Hill District of the Chittagong Hill Tracts in December 2006. The Mru, one of the eleven Jumma tribes, rely on their land as their only source of survival.

Many other Jumma leaders have been arrested and imprisoned since a state of emergency was declared in Bangladesh in January. Jumma rights groups believe that the army is using the state of emergency as an excuse to increase oppression in the Chittagong Hill tracts.

Survival is urging the Bangladesh caretaker government to make good the promises made to the Jumma people in the 1997 Peace Accords, to return the lands stolen from them, and to end the military occupation of the Hill Tracts.