Thursday, May 14, 2009

Charges against Suu Kyi 'troubling:' US

The Age - The US State Department expressed concern after Burma's military junta detained and charged pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi with breaching the terms of her house arrest.

"We have seen this report, which is certainly troubling if true," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said about Suu Kyi's expected trial on Monday to face the charges, which carry a maximum jail term of five years.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "has seen it as well, and has asked the Department to work to get more information", added Kelly.

The charges would stretch the 63-year-old's detention past its supposed expiry date this month and through elections that are due in 2010.

US national John Yettaw was detained last week after swimming across a lake and hiding inside Suu Kyi's off-limits home for two days.

He was also charged with violating the security law and immigration conditions, according to Hla Myo Myint, one of the democracy activist's lawyers.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Thursday he is "deeply disturbed" by the arrest.

"The Burmese regime is clearly intent on finding any pretext, no matter how tenuous, to extend her unlawful detention," he said in a statement issued by his Downing Street office.

"I am deeply disturbed that Aung San Suu Kyi may be charged with breaching the terms of her detention," he added.

But he said: "The real injustice, the real illegality, is that she is still detained in the first place. If the 2010 elections are to have any semblance of credibility, she and all political prisoners must be freed to participate.

"Only then will Burma be set on the road to real democracy, stability and prosperity," he added.

The European Union's special envoy Piero Fassino said there is "no justification" for the new charges.

"There is no justification" for the decision to charge her with breaching the terms of her house arrest, he told Italy's Channel 5 television.

Fassino said the international community should use "every possible means to press for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi" as well as "the 2,000 other political prisoners who are held in Burmese jails", he added.

The Italian envoy said that Europe should work with the United States and Asian countries to "make the Burmese junta understand that its oppressive and dictatorial policy is unacceptable for the international community".

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