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Suu Kyi faces trial over unwanted visitor15 May 2009
BURMA'S military junta charged the democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday with breaching the terms of her house arrest after an American man swam across a lake and hid inside her home, her lawyer said.
The 63-year-old Nobel Peace laureate will go on trial on Monday on the charges, which carry a maximum jail term of five years and would increase her detention past its supposed expiry date this month and past elections that are due in 2010. Australia has expressed grave concern about Ms Suu Kyi's imprisonment and called for her immediate release.
"It is Australia's longstanding position, shared by governments of both political persuasions, that she should be released immediately and unconditionally, and I repeat that today," the Foreign Affairs Minister, Stephen Smith, told Parliament yesterday.The British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, was "deeply disturbed" by the arrest. "The Burmese regime is clearly intent on finding any pretext, no matter how tenuous, to extend her unlawful detention," he said.
"The real injustice, the real illegality is that she is still detained in the first place. If the 2010 elections are to have any semblance of credibility, she and all political prisoners must be freed to participate."The junta had charged Ms Suu Kyi and her two maids under the Law Safeguarding the State from the Dangers of Subversive Elements, one of her lawyers, Hla Myo Myint, said.
Ms Suu Kyi, 63, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, has been under virtual house arrest for 13 of the 19 years since the military regime refused to recognise the 1990 landslide victory of her National League for Democracy. She is not allowed visitors without permission.
The man, identified as John Yettaw, swam across a lake in central Rangoon last week and sneaked into Ms Suu Kyi's heavily guarded residential compound. She pleaded with him to leave, another lawyer, U Kyi Win, said yesterday, but he complained of cramp and she let him stay.
The lawyer called Yettaw "a nutty fellow".
US consular officials have met Yettaw briefly. The motives for his escapade are still unclear. He was charged yesterday with immigration violations and breaching a security law. He remains in jail in Rangoon.
The incident could give the junta a convenient reason to extend Ms Suu Kyi's house arrest, which by some calculations is to end on May 27.
A statutory five-year limit on her house arrest was extended last year for another year and the Government was facing a deadline and the question of her legal status. An election is scheduled for next year under a new constitution.
"The most important issue is to try to undermine the so-called last time they would be able to hold her," said Josef Silverstein, an expert on Burma at Rutgers University in New Jersey.
"Now they have an 'emergency situation' and they can begin the clock all over again.
"It's clear that this is an attempt to undermine her credibility with the population."When security officials came for Ms Suu Kyi yesterday morning, U Kyi Win said, they told her to gather her belongings, as if she would not be returning soon.
"This is a clear case of intrusion," U Kyi Win said of the swimmer. "There was a breach of security. She was about to report it to the security guards outside. but he begged and said he would go away soon. She had some pity for the chap."Yettaw was fished from the lake by the police as he swam from the house on May 5. The New York Times,Agence France-Presse Thomas Fuller in Bangkok and Jonathan Pearlman May 15, 2009
A PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE
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