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27 May 2009

Obama calls on junta to free Myanmar’s opposition leader

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The trial of Aung San Suu Kyi was due to continue Wednesday as US President Barack Obama urged Myanmar to immediately free the pro-democracy icon, describing her hearing as a “show trial”, reported AFP.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner testified for the first time at her trial on Tuesday, telling the court that she did not violate the terms of her house arrest by offering shelter to a US man who swam to her lakeside home.

In Washington, Obama called on Myanmar's military rulers to “immediately and unconditionally” release the 63-year-old democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's continued detention, isolation, and show trial based on spurious charges cast serious doubt on the Burmese regime's willingness to be a responsible member of the international community,” he said in a statement.

The case has drawn widespread international condemnation of the country's iron-fisted military junta.

Aung San Suu Kyi testified at the maximum security Insein Prison in Yangon Tuesday that she had not breached the restriction order keeping her at her residence, according to reporters and diplomats present at the hearing.

The long-standing figurehead of Myanmar's opposition movement, Aung San Suu Kyi faces up to five years in jail if convicted. She has been under house arrest or in jail for 13 of the last 19 years, including the last six.

She said the first she knew of the bizarre visit by American army veteran John Yettaw was when her assistant woke her up at around dawn on May 4 to tell her that a man had arrived at the house.

The junta is also trying Yettaw and two female aides who live with Aung San Suu Kyi in her house. Yettaw has said he swam across a lake to the house to warn her of a vision he had that she would be assassinated.

Critics accuse Myanmar's junta of trumping up the charges in a bid to keep Aung San Suu Kyi locked up during elections due in 2010. Her party won the country's last elections, in 1990, but was never allowed to take power.

In a surprise development, Myanmar authorities informed Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday morning that her six-year period of house arrest was officially over - although she still remains in detention at the prison, her party said.

“We don't know whether we should be happy or sad, because she is still in detention on these charges,” said Nyan Win, spokesman for the National League for Democracy (NLD). 




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