Military leaders in Myanmar have executed four democracy activists, including veteran campaigner Ko Jimmy and Phyo Zeya Thaw, who were accused of committing "terror acts".
Phyo Zeya Thaw (41) is a former hip-hop star turned National League for Democracy (NLD) lawmaker. He was arrested in November.
It is believed to be the first use of capital punishment in decades in the country, after a closed-door trial criticised as unjust by human-rights groups.
In 2021, the country's military seized power, an event which triggered widespread demonstrations, prompting a military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, activists and journalists.
Families gather at prison
Family members gathered at Insein prison today, desperate for information on their loved ones, the BBC has reported.
Ko Jimmy (53) was a veteran of the 88 Generation Students Group – a Burmese pro-democracy movement known for their activism against the country's military junta in the 1988 student uprisings.
Along with his wife Nilar Thein, Ko Jimmy was a pioneer of the pro-democracy movement. He served multiple stints in prison for his activism, before being released in 2012.
The mother of Phyo Zeya Thaw says she was not told when exactly her son would be executed, adding that she was unable to make proper traditional funeral plans as a result.
‘Healthy and smiling’
"When we met on Zoom last Friday, my son was healthy and smiling. He asked me to send his reading glasses, dictionary and some money to use in prison, so I brought those things to the prison today," Khin Win May told the BBC's Burmese Service.
"That's why I didn't think they would kill him. I didn't believe it."
The sister of Ko Jimmy, whose real name is Kyaw Min Yu, said they were yet to receive the remains.
Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw were sentenced to death for killing a woman who was an alleged informer for the junta.
State news outlet Global News Light of Myanmar said the four men were executed because they "gave directives, made arrangements and committed conspiracies for brutal and inhumane terror acts".
It said they had been charged under the counter terrorism laws, but did not say when or how they were executed.
‘Outraged and devastated’
"I am outraged and devastated at the news of the junta's execution of Myanmar patriots and champions of human rights and democracy," said Tom Andrews (UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar).
"These depraved acts must be a turning point for the international community."
The shadow National Unity Government of Myanmar (NUG) said they were "extremely shocked and saddened" by the killings.
The NUG, which comprises pro-democracy figures, representatives of armed ethnic groups and former lawmakers, urged the international community to “punish (the) murderous military junta for their cruelty and killings”.