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28 May 2009

Trial of Myanmar's opposition leader:
Security breach blamed for bizarre visit

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Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi blamed a "security breach" for a bizarre visit by an American that put her in a prison courtroom this week and implied that Myanmar's military government was at fault, reported the Associated Press.

"The fact that I am the only party being prosecuted shows the partiality of the prosecution," the Nobel Peace Prize laureate said in the statement, which was submitted to the court Tuesday.

Suu Kyi is accused of violating the terms of her house arrest by sheltering an uninvited American visitor. The trial is expected to result in a guilty verdict and up to five years in prison.

Outrage from Asian and Western leaders, including President Barack Obama, has included accusations that the junta is trying to keep Suu Kyi in detention during elections it has planned for next year.

A pale and weak looking Suu Kyi insisted in testimony Tuesday that she did not violate the law.

She acknowledges that she allowed American John W. Yettaw, 53, to stay for two days early this month after he swam across a lake to enter her house uninvited and then said he was too tired and ill to leave immediately.

Yettaw, of Falcon, Missouri, was arrested after he swam away. He later explained he had a dream that Suu Kyi would be assassinated and had gone to warn her.

The statement released Wednesday by Suu Kyi's party noted that when Yettaw first tried to visit her house, in November 2008, she reported the incident to authorities through her personal doctor, but no action was taken.

Suu Kyi said she also intended to report his visit this month through her doctor, Tin Myo Win, but he was not allowed into her house and was later held by authorities for more than a week.

This incident occurred because of a security breach (by authorities). However, until now no action has been taken on security," Suu Kyi said in the statement.

The trial has sparked intense criticism of Myanmar's military regime, even among the country's Asian neighbors who normally refrain from commenting on its internal affairs.

Obama said Tuesday that Suu Kyi's continued detention, isolation and "show trial based on spurious charges" cast serious doubt on the Myanmar government's willingness to be a responsible member of the international community.

Asian and European ministers, meeting in Vietnam, urged Myanmar to release Suu Kyi, lift restrictions on political parties, and prepare for free, fair and multiparty elections in 2010. Myanmar's neighbor Thailand has said it has "grave concerns" about the trial.

"Aung San Suu Kyi is an indispensable partner in the dialogue leading to national reconciliation in Myanmar," Jan Kohout, deputy prime minister of the Czech Republic, said in Hanoi. "She should be released immediately." The Czech Republic currently holds the presidency of the European Union.

About 150 local activists staged a peaceful demonstration in front of Myanmar's embassy in Cambodia's capital Wednesday and a similar rally was held in Bangkok.

Suu Kyi, whose 64th birthday is June 19, has spent more than 13 of the past 19 years in detention without trial, most at her dilapidated Yangon home.

In Yangon, Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy marked two milestones - Suu Kyi's sixth year under continuous detention and the 19th anniversary of their overwhelming election victory, which the junta has never recognised.

Party leaders released 64 doves and sparrows and observed a minute of silence at their Yangon headquarters as 250 party members held candles to mark the anniversaries. More than 60 plainclothes police videotaped and photographed the members and guests.

During Tuesday's court session, Suu Kyi looked frail as she answered judges' questions, giving brief, carefully phrased replies about the incident earlier this month that could lead to her being sent to prison for five years. She pleaded not guilty Friday.

She is not expected to testify again, although she is to attend the rest of the trial. Yettaw and two women assistants who live with Suu Kyi also have pleaded not guilty to the same charge.

Myanmar's courts operate under the influence of the military and almost always deal harshly with political dissidents.

Diplomats and reporters, including one for The Associated Press, were allowed into the courtroom for Tuesday's session, the second time during the trial that access has been granted.

Suu Kyi rose to prominence as a leader of a 1988 democracy uprising that the military brutally suppressed. Her latest term of house arrest was to have ended Wednesday, according to her supporters. The junta argues it would have expired in November, but in any event has canceled her house arrest order, apparently because this is required by law when a suspect is charged with a crime.


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