Friday, May 15, 2009

Myanmar democracy activist held in prison

YANGON, Myanmar – Myanmar's jailed democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi insists she is not guilty of violating her house arrest, her lawyer said Friday, as a clearer picture emerged of the American who swam to her home and kicked off the junta's latest crackdown.

Ahead of Suu Kyi's trial Monday, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate spent the night at the country's notorious Insein Prison where she is being held in a "guest house" within the compound during her trial proceedings, said her lawyer Kyi Win.

Worldwide condemnation has poured in since Suu Kyi was charged Thursday with breaking the terms of her yearslong detention, just two weeks before she was due to be released. Her trial was scheduled to be held at a special court at the prison, which has held numerous political prisoners over the years.

World leaders, human rights groups and fellow Nobel laureates denounced the move as an attempt by the military junta to silence its chief opponent ahead of next year's election — which will be the first since Suu Kyi's party won elections in 1990 that the junta refused to recognize.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the charges and called for Suu Kyi's immediate release.

"If the 2010 elections are to have any semblance of credibility, she and all political prisoners must be freed to participate," British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said.

The Singapore government said it "is dismayed" by the charges against Suu Kyi, one of the few criticisms to come from Myanmar's neighbors in Southeast Asia, who abide by a much-criticized policy of not interfering in each others affairs.

The charges follow a mysterious visit to her home by John William Yettaw, 53, an American who swam across a lake and sneaked into her home seeking food and a place to rest.

It was the second time Yettaw had made the trip after swimming across the lake last summer, but on that visit the house staff kept him from speaking to Suu Kyi, his wife, Betty Yettaw told The Associated Press in an interview outside her home near Camdenton in southern Missouri.

"I think that's what motivated him to go back. He thought he could be in and out," she said, describing her husband as eccentric but peaceloving and "not political at all."

Before making the latest trip, Yettaw left his 10-year-old and three teenagers with friends, then visited his former wife in California last month and told her he had to go to Asia to work on a psychology paper about forgiveness, according to his ex-wife Yvonne Yettaw.

John Yettaw belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormons, said Yvonne Yettaw, adding that it was unlikely he was in Southeast Asia to proselytize for the church or convert the Nobel laureate.

Yvonne Yettaw, speaking from Palm Springs, California, told the AP that her ex-husband lived on veteran's disability benefits, supplemented by occasional construction work. She said he had been studying psychology and writing a paper about forgiveness after trauma, and went to Southeast Asia for research but he was "real secretive" about his journey.

Suu Kyi has already spent 13 of the last 19 years in detention without trial for her nonviolent promotion of democracy. She was scheduled to be freed May 27 after six consecutive years of house arrest but now faces up to five years in prison if convicted of violating the terms of her detention, said one of her lawyers, Hla Myo Myint.

"Daw Suu understands the law and told me, 'I did not break the law," said her chief lawyer Kyi Win, who met with Suu Kyi on Thursday. "Daw" is a term of respect for older women.

"She did not contact the swimmer, he came in as an intruder and she's not guilty," said Kyi Win, who attended the Thursday arraignment and met with Suu Kyi.

According to the restriction order under which Suu Kyi is held, she is prohibited from having contact with embassies, political parties and "associated persons" and she is barred from communicating with the outside world by telephone or mail, he said.

Myanmar citizens are required to report overnight visitors to local authorities but Suu Kyi's "did not report him because she did not want to see anyone arrested because of her."

Yettaw was arrested May 6 for allegedly swimming across a lake to secretly enter Suu Kyi's home and staying there for two days. He was brought to the same courtroom Thursday as Suu Kyi and charged with illegally entering a restricted zone, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, and breaking immigration laws, which is punishable by up to one year in jail.

The junta scheduled elections as part of its so-called "roadmap to democracy," but the effort is widely perceived as a guise for continued military control.

Parliamentary rule was overthrown by a coup in 1962, and the army has been in control since then. It held an election in 1990 but refused to honor the results after Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won in a landslide.

Ref :  : Yahoonews

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