'There were gasps in court, but all she did was smile'

Decision to extend Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest meets with outrage in Burma and beyond.

She had about half an hour to snatch a few last glimpses of Rangoon as the police convoy sped away from Insein jail, down the lakeside highway and back to the crumbling house on University Avenue – her home and prison for another 18 months.

Burma's pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was put back under house arrest yesterday at the end of a three-month trial that Gordon Brown described as a "sham".

Diplomats attending the hearing said Ms Suu Kyi, 64, stood straight and still as the judge in Rangoon's Insein jail found her guilty of breaching the terms of her detention by sheltering an uninvited guest, and sentenced her to three years with hard labour.

"There were gasps in the court and you could feel a ripple of outrage," said one European diplomat. "But her reaction was remarkably stoical, she even turned to her lawyers and smiled."

After a dramatic pause, the interior minister entered the courtroom and read out a special order from Than Shwe, the senior general in Burma's military junta, commuting the sentence to 18 months of house arrest in the interests of "maintaining community peace and stability".

Ms Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, has been in detention for 14 of the last 20 years, but retains a wide and passionate following, and is still the most potent threat to Burma's hated generals. The maximum sentence she could have received was five years' hard labour, but observers say it had been carefully reduced in order to keep her out of the way until after elections scheduled for next year, which are unlikely to do more than put a civilian façade on five decades of military rule.

"Eighteen months is perfectly designed if the motivation is, as we think, to keep her away from the elections and the aftermath when they will be trying to embed a new government," said Sean Turnell, a Burma expert at Australia's Macquarie University.

The trial stemmed from a bizarre incident in May when an American man, John Yettaw, swam to her lakeside home to warn her of a dream he had had that she would be assassinated. Ms Suu Kyi initially urged him to leave, but allowed him to stay for two nights when he complained of cramps and exhaustion.

Mr Yettaw, a 54-year-old Vietnam veteranr, was hauled from the lake by police as he swam away from the house. Ms Suu Kyi and her two housekeepers were arrested and charged with violating the conditions of her arrest by providing him with food and shelter.

Looking bewildered, Mr Yettaw was convicted of immigration violations and "swimming in a non-swimming area", and sentenced to seven years, with four years' hard labour. Ms Suu Kyi's housekeepers, a mother and daughter, were given 18 months of house arrest.

Diplomats speculated that Mr Yettaw, a diabetic and epileptic who has been in poor health throughout the trial, would be quickly pardoned and deported.

Ms Suu Kyi has returned to her decaying villa to read, meditate and hope. She had anticipated a guilty verdict and asked her lawyers to provide her with medicines and dozens of new books, including biographies of Winston Churchill and thrillers by John Le Carré. She may be allowed to receive the occasional, censored letter from her two sons in England.

Immaculately dressed in a pink and purple Burmese outfit, Ms Suu Kyi approached diplomats in the courtroom before being led away. "I look forward very much to working together for the peace and prosperity of my country and the world," she said. No one can guess when that time will come.

For now, the verdict will snuff out any prospect of better relations between the junta and Western nations. US President Barack Obama called for her "immediate unconditional release", while Gordon Brown said he was "saddened and angry" and that Britain would campaign for a total arms embargo against the Burmese regime. French President Nicolas Sarkozy called the verdict "brutal and unjust" and urged the European Union to quickly adopt new sanctions. The UN Security Council met last night to discuss the verdict.

Back in Rangoon, riot police manned roadblocks around the prison and there was heavy security across the monsoon-soaked city. Around 200 supporters of Ms Suu Kyi gathered outside Insein for the verdict and dispersed quietly after it was announced. "Everyone is disappointed – and angry," said one 34-year-old supporter who gave his name only as Win. "But we cannot shout or march. We know these police will shoot us."

Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory in Burma's last elections in 1990, but the generals refused to accept the result. Critics say next year's elections cannot be free and fair with Ms Suu Kyi, and more than 2,000 other dissidents, behind bars. "So long as Aung San Suu Kyi and all those political opponents imprisoned in Burma remain in detention, the planned elections in 2010 will have no credibility," said Mr Brown.

John Yettaw: 'Well-intentioned' man in hot water

*Friends and family of John Yettaw said they were stunned by the harsh seven-year sentence handed down to a "well-intentioned" man.

His ex-wife, Yvonne, said from California that she was shocked: "Our children are stunned. He went out there with good intentions but without thinking of the consequences."

Mr Yettaw's lawyers will appeal against the sentence. Diplomats are hopeful that he will be granted clemency, possibly on health grounds, and allowed to return to the US.

The asthmatic former soldier, who has recently been in hospital after suffering epileptic seizures, was arrested on his second visit to Burma. He told officials he had been driven to swim across Rangoon's Inya Lake to Aung San Suu Kyi's home after receiving a warning from God that she was to be killed. While travelling elsewhere in Asia, he told fellow backpackers he was researching a book on forgiveness and trauma.

On an earlier visit to Aung San Suu Kyi's home last November, Mr Yettaw was sent away from her door but in May he was allowed to stay.

His son Clint died two years ago in a motorcycle accident. His stepson, Paul Nedrow, said: "After Clint's death, he took something that was already of intense interest to him because of previous experiences in his life, healing and forgiveness after traumatic events, and threw himself into his research."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
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: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own