Sentence removes Suu Kyi from poll scene

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The Independent Online

A court in Burma today found pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi guilty of violating her house arrest by allowing an uninvited American to stay at her home.



The head of the military-ruled country ordered her to serve out an 18-month sentence under house arrest.

The American, John Yettaw, 53, was sentenced to seven years in prison, including four with hard labour.

Ms Suu Kyi has already been in detention for 14 of the last 20 years, mostly under house arrest, and the extension will remove her from the political scene while the country holds junta-organised elections next year.

The 64-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate had faced up to five years in prison for allowing Mr Yettaw to stay for two nights after he swam across a lake to reach her.

The court initially sentenced her to a three-year prison term. But after a five-minute recess, the country's home minister entered the courtroom and read aloud a special order from junta chief Senior General Than Shwe.

The order said he was cutting the sentence in half to 18 months and that it could be served under house arrest.

The order, signed yesterday, also reduced the sentences of Ms Suu Kyi's two female house companions to 18 months.

Gen Than Shwe said he reduced the sentence to "maintain peace and tranquility" and because Ms Suu Kyi was the daughter of Aung San, a revered hero who won Burma's independence from Britain.

Ms Suu Kyi's trial has sparked international outrage and calls for her release and that of more than 2,000 other political prisoners in Burma.

Mr Yettaw, of Falcon, Missouri, was returned to Insein prison, the site of the trial, last night after being admitted to hospital with epileptic seizures.

The court sentenced him to three years in prison for breaching Ms Suu Kyi's house arrest. He was also sentenced to three years in prison with hard labour for an immigration violation and to another one-year term with hard labour for swimming in a restricted zone.

It was not immediately clear if the prison terms would be served concurrently.

Mr Yettaw, a devout Christian, earlier told his lawyer that he swam to Ms Suu Kyi's residence to warn her of an assassination attempt that he had seen in a vision.

He was taken to hospital last Monday after suffering fits. He reportedly suffers from epilepsy, diabetes and other health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder from his service in the US military.

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