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31 May 2009

Myanmar's opposition leader marks six years of detention

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Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi prepared her final arguments with lawyers in prison Saturday as she marked the sixth anniversary of her latest period of detention with the prospect of further jail time, reported AFP.

The pro-democracy leader met in the afternoon with her three-man defence team in Yangon's Insein prison for two-and-a-half hours, a day after her political party said it was "very concerned" for her health.

"We discussed in detail our final arguments," one of her lawyers and spokesman, Nyan Win, told AFP, without giving further details.

"Now Daw Aung San Suu Kyi says her health is okay and she has recovered after taking two kinds of medicine," he said, adding that the leg cramps that had sparked renewed health fears had not recurred for the past two days.

The Nobel peace laureate is facing up to five years' detention on charges relating to the surprise visit of an eccentric American to her lakeside prison home in early May with final legal arguments to be heard on Friday.

Meanwhile, members of her political party donated food to monks in early morning ceremonies on Saturday as they recalled her arrest in 2003 following a pro-junta mob attack on her motorcade that left about 70 people dead.

She has been held under house arrest since the incident near Depeyin in northern Myanmar, but was moved to Insein Prison two weeks ago following the fresh charges against her.

The 63-year-old has spent 13 of the past 19 years in detention and the new trial has drawn international outrage.

On Saturday US Defence Secretary Robert Gates told a high-level security forum in Singapore that Myanmar's rulers must release her and begin dialogue with the opposition.

"We need to see real change in Burma -- the release of political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and the institution of meaningful dialogue between the junta and the opposition," Gates said, using Myanmar's former name, Burma.

In state media the junta again attempted to defend itself from the criticism.

"Every citizen is to understand the fact that the government's promulgating the laws and taking action against offenders... are not associated with any forms of discrimination but just in the interests of the nation and the people," state newspaper the New Light of Myanmar said.

On Friday Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party said she was suffering from leg cramps in prison, after a series of health scares in recent months.

Myanmar's state-controlled media reported last week that she was receiving daily health care at the jail after being twice placed on an intravenous drip at her house earlier this month because she could not eat.

She faces up to five years in jail on charges of breaching her house arrest after 53-year-old Mormon John Yettaw swam to her house in Yangon in early May.

In central Tokyo on Saturday around 250 people held a rally outside Myanmar's embassy to call for her release.

The demonstrators, including Myanmar citizens and Japanese supporters, gathered to place flowers and hold a one-minute silent prayer.

Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone has told Myanmar his country has "profound concerns" about the trial.

Meanwhile a peace vigil calling for Aung San Suu Kyi's freedom has been planned for Sunday in several Southeast Asian countries.


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