Suu Kyi charged with violating house arrest

Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi could be facing up to five years in prison after being charged with violating the terms of her house arrest.

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was today charged with breaching the terms of her house arrest and faces up to five years in jail for allowing an American man to stay at her lakeside home, her party said.

Activists denounced her trial, set to begin on Monday, as a ploy by the country's junta to keep Suu Kyi, 63, sidelined ahead of elections in 2010.

The Nobel Peace laureate's National League for Democracy (NLD) won a huge victory in 1990 polls only to be denied power by the military, which has ruled the former Burma since 1962.

Suu Kyi, whose latest six-year detention is due to expire on May 27, will remain in Yangon's Insein Prison for a trial that has been scheduled for May 18, a spokesman for the National League for Democracy (NLD) said.

The spokesman said she had been charged under Myanmar's Law Safeguarding the State from the Dangers of Subversive Elements, which carries a three-to-five-year jail term if a detainee "violates the restrictions imposed on them".

Suu Kyi has spent 13 of the past 19 years under some form of detention, with her latest spell starting in May 2003.

The charges stem from a bizarre incident involving U.S. citizen John William Yettaw, who, according to state media, claimed to have swum across Inya Lake and spent two days in Suu Kyi's compound earlier this month.

Yettaw, who was arrested on May 6 as he swam back from Suu Kyi's home, met US embassy officials yesterday but revealed little about his motives.

"We cannot comment. He didn't tell us any details," embassy spokesman Richard Mei said.

It was apparently the second time that Yettaw -- described by state media as a 53-year-old psychology student and a resident of Missouri -- had tried to meet Suu Kyi at her home.

Suu Kyi's lawyer, Kyi Win, said Yettaw was told to leave after attempting to meet her in 2008. This time Yettaw refused.

"He said he was so tired and wanted to rest, but she pleaded with him. Then he slept overnight on the ground floor," Kyi Win told the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB).

DETENTION

Suu Kyi's detention at Insein Prison will renew fears for her health after she was put on an intravenous drip last week for dehydration and low blood pressure.

The United States and human rights groups have demanded that she be allowed to see her main doctor, Tin Myo Win.

However, he was also detained for questioning last week.

Another of Suu Kyi's lawyers, Aung Thein, said Yettaw had been today charged with "encouraging a violation of the law". Aung Thein said two female companions who live with Suu Kyi would probably face the same charge.

UN legal experts have said Suu Kyi's continued house arrest was illegal under Myanmar law, which permits detention for five consecutive years before the accused must be freed or put on trial.

Suu Kyi launched a legal appeal after her detention was extended last year in an apparent violation of the law. The junta said it could hold her for a sixth year and denied the appeal.

"The regime filed these charges to extend her detention beyond the six years," said Aung Din, executive director of the US Campaign for Burma, a pro-democracy group.

"It is an act of blackmailing the international community, especially the United States, demanding a ransom to get back an American citizen and better treatment for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi," he said.

The generals have ignored international calls for Suu Kyi's release as they push ahead with a seven-step "roadmap to democracy" expected to culminate in the multi-party elections in 2010.

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