Brown 'appalled' as Burma deny Suu Kyi freedom

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The Independent Online

Prime Minister Gordon Brown today said he was "appalled and saddened" that Burma's highest court had turned down opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's latest bid for freedom.

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal to end 14 years of house arrest, her lawyer said.

The decision was expected since legal rulings in Burma rarely favour opposition activists.

Defence lawyer Nyan Win told reporters he would launch one final "special appeal" to the court after finding out why the earlier one was dismissed. "The court order did not mention any reasons," he said.

Mr Brown said: "I am appalled and saddened that Aung San Suu Kyi's appeal against the sentence imposed by the regime has been denied. That failed appeal is sadly no surprise.

"From start to end, the sole purpose of this show trial has been to prevent Daw Suu Kyi from taking part in elections.

"In my open letter to Aung San Suu Kyi in December, I said that this should be a historic year for Burma. Free, fair and genuinely inclusive elections would allow the country to move forward, to map a new path.

"But while she is kept out of political life and while over 2,100 other prisoners of conscience remain incarcerated, the regime's elections will not gain recognition nor international legitimacy."

Ms Suu Kyi's lawyers appealed to the court last November after a lower court upheld a decision to sentence her to 18 months of house arrest.

She was convicted last August of violating the terms of her previous detention by briefly sheltering an American who swam to her lakeside home.

The 64-year-old democracy campaigner was initially sentenced to three years in prison with hard labour in a trial that was condemned around the world, but that sentence was immediately commuted to 18 months of house arrest by junta chief Senior General Than Shwe.

Ms Suu Kyi has been detained for 14 of the past 20 years.

Her National League for Democracy won elections in 1990 by a landslide, but the military, which has ruled Burma since 1962, refused to yield power and has constantly obstructed her party's operations over the past two decades.

The junta announced it would hold elections some time this year under a constitution which would allow the military to maintain substantial powers. Ms Suu Kyi's party has not yet announced whether it would contest the elections.

The court ruling comes nearly two weeks after the junta released Tin Oo, the 82-year-old deputy leader of Ms Suu Kyi's party, after nearly seven years in detention, and a week after a UN human rights envoy left the country, expressing disappointment that he was not allowed to meet the opposition leader.

Burma has been widely criticised for its continued violation of human rights, including atrocities committed by its military against ethnic minority groups.

Soon after his release Tin Oo said he was very hopeful Ms Suu Kyi would be released soon, noting that in 1995 he was released from an earlier stint in prison not long before Ms Suu Kyi herself was freed.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: "I am appalled and saddened that Aung San Suu Kyi's appeal against the sentence imposed by the regime has been denied. That failed appeal is sadly no surprise.

"From start to end, the sole purpose of this show trial has been to prevent Daw Suu Kyi from taking part in elections.

"In my open letter to Aung San Suu Kyi in December, I said that this should be a historic year for Burma. Free, fair and genuinely inclusive elections would allow the country to move forward, to map a new path.

"But while she is kept out of political life and while over 2100 other prisoners of conscience remain incarcerated, the regime's elections will not gain recognition nor international legitimacy."

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