Suu Kyi to stand trial again over US visitor

Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was charged today with violating the terms of her house arrest after an American man swam across a lake to sneak into her home, her lawyer said.



Suu Kyi, whose latest detention period was set to end May 27, could face a prison term of up to five years if convicted, said lawyer Hla Myo Myint. The trial is scheduled to start Monday at a special court at Yangon's notorious Insein Prison, where she was arraigned Thursday.

The 63-year-old has already spent more than 13 of the last 19 years — including the past six — in detention without trial for her nonviolent promotion of democracy, despite international pressure for her release.

The American man, who has been identified as 53-year-old John William Yettaw, was arrested last week for allegedly swimming across a lake to secretly enter Suu Kyi's home and staying there for two days. His motives remain unclear.

He was charged at Thursday's hearing with illegally entering a restricted zone, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, and breaking immigration laws, which is punishable by up to one year behind bars, said the lawyer.

Human rights groups said they feared the trial would be used to justify another extension of Suu Kyi's yearslong detention despite international demands for her release.

In the past the junta — which regards the Nobel Peace laureate as the biggest threat to their rule — has found reasons to extend her periods of house arrest, which international jurists say is illegal even under Burma's own law.

The regime appears bent on ensuring that general elections scheduled for next year are carried out without any significant opposition by pro-democracy groups that say the balloting will merely perpetuate military rule under a democratic guise.

Kyi Win, another lawyer for Suu Kyi, said the opposition leader did not invite the man to her home and in fact told the man to leave. He said the incident was merely a breach of the normally tight security authorities impose on Suu Kyi and her household.

"Everyone is very angry with this wretched American. He is the cause of all these problems," Suu Kyi's lawyer Kyi Win told reporters. "He's a fool."

U.S. consular chief Colin Furst was allowed to visit Yettaw, of Falcon, Missouri, for the first time on Wednesday.

"He seemed to be in good spirits and in good health," U.S. Embassy spokesman Richard Mei reported Thursday. Mei was not present at the arraignment and said he did not immediately have additional details.

"I know that John is harmless and not politically motivated in any way. He did not want to cause Suu Kyi any trouble," his stepson Paul Nedrow wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. He said he was concerned over his stepfather's health since he was a diabetic and the ailment "could cause him to become disoriented and confused and be unable to make wise choices for himself."

State television Thursday said Yettaw had served two years in the military and listed his occupations as "student, clinical psychology, Forest Institution."

Earlier Thursday, armed police drove Suu Kyi and two women who live with her to Insein Prison. The two women, who have lived with Suu Kyi since she was last detained in 2003, were also charged with the same offense, lawyers said.

"This is a non-bailable case, but we will fight for bail," Hla Myo Myint told reporters outside the prison after Suu Kyi and Yettaw were charged.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith described Suu Kyi's arrest as "gravely concerning" and called for her immediate release.

National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, which describes itself as the country's government-in-exile, said the junta was using the incident to extend Suu Kyi's detention.

"It is nothing more than a political ploy to hoodwink the international community so that it can keep (Suu Kyi) under lock and key while the military maneuvers its way to election victory on 2010," the group's Prime Minister Sein Win was quoted as saying in a statement.

Suu Kyi has recently been ill, suffering from dehydration and low blood pressure. Her condition improved this week after a visit from a doctor who administered an intravenous drip, said Nyan Win, the spokesman of her National League for Democracy Party, who is part of a team of three lawyers hoping to represent her.

"Please tell them (reporters) I am well," Kyi Win quoted Suu Kyi as saying. But he added: "I am very concerned about Suu Kyi's health, even though she said she is well."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
Extras
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value
indybest

News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricket
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas