Monday, September 13, 2010

34 Freedom Fighters Reach Final in Indian Prison Football Tournament

By Takaloo
Kolkata : The team of the 34 Burmese freedom fighters has entered the final round after beating the team that was pegged to be the champions in the prison football tournament at the Presidential Jail in Kolkata, India.

The tournament is dubbed the "Inter-ward Friendship Football Tournament 2010", and is sponsored by local NGO Satyam Seva Kenfra and the local football club of the Rotary Club of Kolkata Metropolitan, for the recreation of inmates in the prison, reports a prison source.

There are six teams competing in the tournament that started in August are Supremo, Warders, Twister-B, Venga Boys, New Supporting, and Burmese Freedom Fighters.

"It was a very exciting semi-final match between Supremo and the Burmese Freedom Fighters that was held on 8 September. The match ended in a draw after the score was 3-3. The Burmese finally won the match after penalty shots. Everyone here thought that Supremo would be the champion as they have two Nigerians who play very well and their team was the best in the tournament," the source told Narinjara.

The source added that almost all of the prisoners watching the match were cheering for the Burmese as they understand they are freedom fighters who have been unfairly languishing in Indian jails for more than a decade and they sympathize with their plight.

The 34 freedom fighters are members of the National United Party of Arakan and the Karen National Union, both of which are fighting for their ethnic rights and democracy in military-run Burma.

Indian authorities arrested the men in February 1998 after luring them to Indian territory in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands on false pretenses. Six of their leaders were shot dead by Indian forces in cold blood when they arrived at the island.

They have been detained in jails for several years without trials. Their case was finally settled on 12 July, 2010, in the City Sessions Court in Kolkata when they agreed to accept a plea bargain with the Indian spy agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation, the main plaintiff in the case.

The judge of the court, Uday Chandra Nag, sentenced the freedom fighters to three years in prison and fines of 6,000 rupees, which is approximately 130 US Dollars, on three charges of entering the country illegally, and possession of weapons and explosives.

According to the judgment, the 12 years they have already spent in jail will count as time served for their sentences, but their release from jail will be delayed until they can pay the fines to the court.

The final match of the prison football tournament is scheduled for 18 September, and the Burmese team will compete against the winner of the second semi-final match between the prison officials' team, the Warders, and the inmate team Twister-B.


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