American had a 'vision' that Suu Kyi's life was under threat

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The American man who swam across Inya Lake to Aung San Suu Kyi's villa earlier this month did so because he had "had a vision" that her life was in danger.

Speaking inside the court in Rangoon's Insein prison yesterday, where the democracy leader Ms Suu Kyi is on trial, John Yettaw told his lawyer to ask a Burmese policeman who was giving evidence at the trial if he remembered the mention of "a vision".

"Do you remember that I told you at the interrogation that I had a vision that her life would be in danger?" Mr Yettaw said, asking his lawyer to translate the question for the policeman.

The court – which was again closed after being opened to diplomats and journalists on Wednesday – refused to let the lawyer ask the question.

Mr Yettaw went on: "I had come to Myanmar [Burma] to warn the Myanmar authorities and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi against that danger."

The American's explanation was relayed by Nyan Win, a member of Ms Suu Kyi's defence team and a senior figure in her political party, the National League for Democracy. It was the first time Mr Yettaw has produced an explanation for his actions, which could result in Ms Suu Kyi being jailed for up to five years for breaking the terms of her house imprisonment by allowing him to stay. Ms Suu Kyi has said that she and the mother and daughter who are her maids and companions implored Mr Yettaw to leave.

But the Vietnam veteran said that he was too exhausted to swim back and they were obliged to let him stay two nights at the dilapidated villa.

Mr Yettaw is standing trial in Burma with Ms Suu Kyi and her two companions, charged with immigration violations and other offences.

If the authorities were hoping that their sudden decision on Wednesday to allow diplomats and journalists inside the court would silence the trial's critics, they were mistaken.

"We were happy that the Myanmar authorities let our people see Daw Suu Kyi," said the Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, using the honorific applied to women, "but it's not the end. Our main objective is the release of all political prisoners that will lead to national reconciliation."

Speaking to diplomats on Wednesday, Ms Suu Kyi also dwelt on reconciliation. "There could be many opportunities for national reconciliation if all the parties so wished," she was reported as saying. She did not wish to use the intrusion into her home "as a way to get at the Myanmar authorities".

Meanwhile in Washington, the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a congressional hearing: "It is outrageous that they are trying her and that they continue to hold her because of her political popularity. It is our hope that this baseless trial will end with a quick release of her and... a return to some political involvement, eventually, by her and her party."