Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Myanmar's Suu Kyi found guilty

Aung San Suu Kyi has been held in Yangon's Insein jail throughout the trial [File photo/AFP]

(Al Jazeera) -Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's detained opposition leader, has been found guilty of violating an internal security law by a court in the former capital, Yangon.

Announcing its verdict on Tuesday the court sentenced her to three years in prison but that was immediately reduced to 18 months on the orders of the military government, which said she could serve the time in her Yangon home.

The Nobel laureate was charged with breaching the terms of her house arrest following an incident in which an American man, Jonh Yettaw, swam across a lake to reach her residence in May.

Earlier the opposition leader's lawyers said the 64-year-old had been "preparing for the worst" and diplomats had also predicted that the court at Yangon's Insein prison would hand down a guilty verdict after a two-and-a-half-month trial.

Critics have accused Myanmar's military government of using the intrusion at her lakeside home by American John Yettaw as an excuse to keep her locked up during elections that are due in 2010.

Aung San Suu Kyi's lawyers - who have not contested the facts of the case - had argued that the law used by the authorities is invalid because it applies to a constitution abolished two decades ago.

They also said that government guards stationed outside Aung San Suu Kyi's compound should be held responsible for any intrusion in her property.


Ahead of Tuesday's verdict security was stepped up across Yangon and police trucks patrolled the streets overnight, witnesses said.

The move follows warnings in the country's state media against any protests in case of a guilty verdict.

The case has drawn a storm of international criticism of Myanmar's military government, which is already targeted by US and European Union sanctions for its detention of more than 2,000 political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi.

Myanmar's ruling generals have kept Aung San Suu Kyi in detention for nearly 14 of the last 20 years, ever since they refused to recognise her National League for Democracy's (NLD) landslide victory in elections in 1990.

Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962 and the generals have shown no sign of releasing their iron grip.

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