Thursday, May 28, 2009

American says God told him to warn Suu Kyi

(The Age) -A US man told the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi Wednesday that he swam to the democracy icon's home in order to warn her and the Myanmar junta of a "terrorist" plot to assassinate her, her party said.

John Yettaw took the stand for the first time in the case against the Nobel Laureate, who faces up to five years in jail on charges of breaching her house arrest stemming from the American's intrusion into her home this month.

The 53-year-old said he came to Myanmar from his home in Missouri because he had a dream that terrorists would try to pin the blame for killing her on the military regime, Aung San Suu Kyi's party spokesman Nyan Win told reporters.

"Yettaw said he came here because God asked him to," said Nyan Win, who is also on her legal team and was in court on Wednesday for the closed hearing at the notorious Insein Prison in Yangon.

"He said the reason he came was in his vision he saw that Aung San Suu Kyi was assassinated by terrorists. Because of his vision, he came here to warn Aung San Suu Kyi and also the government," Nyan Win said.

"In his vision, the terrorists assassinated Aung San Suu Kyi and then they put the blame for the assassination on the government, so that's why he came here to warn both of them," he said.

Nyan Win said judges questioned Yettaw for three hours, during which the devout Mormon and former US military veteran repeatedly said that he had divine inspiration for his night-time swim on May 4.

Critics accuse Myanmar's military regime of trumping up the charges to keep her locked up during elections due in 2010. Aung San Suu Kyi has been in detention for 13 of the last 19 years.

Facing intense international criticism for the trial, Mynamar's junta has previously blamed "anti-government elements" for Yettaw's visit and alleged he was a "secret agent or her boyfriend".

But the 63-year-old opposition leader, in a statement filed to the court on Tuesday, blamed security failures by the junta for the incident.

"The basic reason for this case is a security failure or security breakdown. No action was taken regarding security but it was me who was charged," said the statement.

She added that she did not immediately report the visit to authorities to avoid causing "harm" to Yettaw or members of the security forces stationed at her house.

She said that the authorities took no action when she reported a prior uninvited visit by Yettaw to her house in November 2008.

Around 300 Members of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party freed doves and prayed at their headquarters Wednesday on the 19th anniversary of an election win annulled by the junta.

Dozens of plainclothes security officials videotaped and photographed people at the event.

The NLD scored a landslide victory in Myanmar's last democratic elections 19 years ago on May 27, 1990, but the military regime never allowed Aung San Suu Kyi to form a government.

Myanmar unexpectedly informed Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday morning that her latest six-year period of house arrest was officially over -- although she remains in detention at the prison. The term was due to expire on May 27.

In Washington, US President Barack Obama late Tuesday urged the junta to "immediately and unconditionally" release the campaigner.

"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.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and celebrities including actor George Clooney added their voices to an online petition to call for her release.

The "64 for Aung San Suu Kyi" campaign wants her 64th birthday on June 19 to be the last she spends under house arrest.

In Cambodia, ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations confronted member country Myanmar Wednesday over the issue, a week after issuing a statement condemning the junta's treatment of her.

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