Junta rejects Suu Kyi appeal as election looms

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The Independent Online

Burma's Supreme Court yesterday rejected an appeal by the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi against her house arrest, a ruling diplomats said would cast further doubt on the legitimacy of this year's election.

Suu Kyi, detained for 15 of the past 21 years, was sentenced to a further 18 months of house arrest in August for allowing an uninvited American to stay in her lakeside home after he swam over to see her.

"The judge turned [the appeal] down," her lawyer, Nyan Win, told reporters, who were barred from the courtroom. "He read out the decision but he didn't offer any reason for the rejection." He said he planned to lodge an appeal with the chief justice, the one remaining channel for Suu Kyi to seek her freedom. The verdict was widely expected by diplomats and activists, many of whom believe Burma's judicial system is beset by interference from the military, which has ruled for almost half a century.

Britain's ambassador, Andrew Heyn, said the coming election, the first in two decades, would not be credible unless Suu Kyi and other political prisoners were released. "Although this decision came as no surprise, it's deeply disappointing," he said. "If this year's elections are to have credibility and legitimacy, all shades of political opinion should have the opportunity to put their case to the electorate."

The election, a date for which has yet to be revealed, has been widely derided as an attempt by the junta to make the country appear democratic, with the military pulling the strings behind a civilian-fronted government.

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