'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."

News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
Sport
Cristiano Ronaldo in action for Real Madrid
football
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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

SSRS Report Developer - Urgent Contract - London - £300pd

£300 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: SSRS Report Developer – 3 Mon...

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000 plus benefits

£32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?