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
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

Tradewind Recruitment: Intervention Teacher Required To Start ASAP.

£125 - £150 per day + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A 'wonderful primary ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough, Cam...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy