Friday, May 15, 2009

YANGON: Myanmar’s military junta charged pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi Thursday with breaching the terms of her house arrest after a US man swam across a lake and hid inside her home, her lawyer said.
The 63-year-old will go on trial on Monday on the charges, which carry a maximum jail term of five years and would stretch her detention past its supposed expiry date this month and through elections that are due in 2010.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate and her two maids appeared in court at the notorious Insein Prison near Yangon, hours after police whisked her away from the residence where she has been detained for most of the past two decades.
‘The authorities have charged Aung San 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, told reporters outside the prison.
US national John Yettaw, who was detained last week for sneaking into her off-limits house and staying there for two days before he was caught, was also charged with violating the security law and immigration conditions, he said.
Aung San Suu Kyi, whose health has been fragile in recent days, would not be allowed to return home but would be held at a special house on the grounds of the prison while proceedings were under way, said her main lawyer Kyi Win.
He pinned the blame on Yettaw — whom authorities in Yangon have described as a 53-year-old Vietnam War veteran — saying that Aung San Suu Kyi had asked him to leave her house.
‘We have to blame him,’ Kyi Win said. ‘He is a fool.’ Kyi Win said before the court hearing that Aung San Suu Kyi ‘wanted to say her health situation is good and that she is in good spirits.’ All those charged face jail terms of between three and five years under the security law, Hla Myo Myint said.
Aung San Suu Kyi has spent 13 of the past 19 years in virtual isolation in her home since the junta refused to recognise her National League for Democracy party’s landslide victory in the country’s last elections in 1990.
The Oxford-educated daughter of the country’s founding father General Aung San, lives with her maids and is allowed to see only her lawyers and medical staff, with the occasional visit from UN representatives.
Her most recent six-year period of detention is due to end on May 27 but diplomats said the junta was keen to keep her locked up ahead of elections that it has promised in 2010 as part of its ‘roadmap to democracy’.
‘They have an excuse,’ a western diplomat based in Yangon said, referring to the latest charges.
Aung Din, executive director of the US Campaign for Burma, said it was the ‘cunning plan of the regime — to put Aung San Suu Kyi in continuous detention beyond the six years allowed by the law they used to justify the detention.’
Her party said at the weekend that she was in poor health and called for her to be given urgent medical assistance after her doctor was taken in for questioning over the incident with the American. He remains in detention.
She was unable to eat and put on an intravenous drip twice in the past week, suffering from dehydration and low blood pressure.
In Washington, which has imposed strict sanctions on the country formerly known as Burma, the US State Department said that Myanmar authorities had allowed a US diplomat to visit Yettaw on Wednesday.
State media said that Yettaw had confessed to arriving in Yangon on a tourist visa on May 2.
The government mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar newspaper published a body-length photo of Yettaw Thursday, along with a biography saying he is married with a doctorate in psychology and lives in Missouri.
An editorial in the paper said Myanmar needed a ‘strong and upright’ judiciary that would ‘pass appropriate sentences to those who jeopardize national unity and development.’

Sign the petition below to Urge UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon to send an envoy to Burma immediately to work for her release. Burma's military regime cannot be allowed to keep Aung San Suu Kyi locked-up forever.

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