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Suu Kyi to more house arrest


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YANGON, Burma– A Burma court convicted Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday of violating her house arrest by allowing an uninvited American to stay at her home. The head of the military-ruled country ordered the democracy leader to serve an 18-month sentence under house arrest.

The 64-year-old opposition leader has already spent 14 of the last 20 years in detention, mostly under house arrest, and the extension will remove her from the political scene when the junta stages elections next year.

The sentence, which drew international condemnation, was handed down along with a stretch of seven years with hard labor for the American intruder, 53-year-old John Yettaw.

The U.N. Security Council said it would meet in a closed-door emergency session Tuesday afternoon to discuss Burma. France, which called for the meeting, planned to push for a statement and a public session.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Suu Kyi should never have been put on trial and called for all political prisoners in Burma — a group she said Yettaw falls into — to be released.

In the litany of criticism, world leaders seemed to be struggling to sufficiently express their disgust: U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "deplores" the verdict, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called it "monstrous," French President Nicolas Sarkozy "brutal and unjust."

Sweden, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, promised tighter sanctions against Burma's leaders and trade restrictions against certain state-owned companies.

It was Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Republican fom Kentucky, who seemed to sum up the mood: "No rational person can look upon this decision with anything but contempt."

The timing of Yettaw's visit came just weeks before Suu Kyi's current six-year term of house arrest was to expire May 27. It sparked theories among Suu Kyi supporters that he was a pawn of the regime, giving the military leaders a pretext — though they might have found one anyway — to keep her detained through next year's planned election. The junta, meanwhile, insinuated he was being used by its exiled opponents.

In the end, Suu Kyi's term was less severe than the maximum sentence she faced — five years in prison — and shorter than the one the court initially ordered Tuesday — three years with hard labor.

Five minutes after that sentence was read out, Home Minister Maj. Gen. Maung Oo entered the courtroom and read aloud a special order from junta chief Senior Gen. Than Shwe, cutting the sentence in half and saying it could be served at home.

Than Shwe's order, signed Monday, likewise reduced the sentences of Suu Kyi's two female house companions, Khin Khin Win and Win Ma Ma, to 18 months. Both are members of her political party.

One of Suu Kyi's lawyers, Nyan Win, said the democracy leader told her defense team to proceed with an appeal and that they had applied for permission to meet with her Wednesday.

Her lawyers also filed a petition Tuesday with the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland, arguing Suu Kyi is being arbitrarily detained in violation of international human rights law.

The junta leader said he commuted the sentences to "maintain community peace and stability" and because Suu Kyi was the daughter of Aung San, a revered hero who won Burma's independence from Britain.

It seemed likely it was in response to intense international pressure, including a call for Suu Kyi's release from the United Nations that was backed by China, Burma's key ally and benefactor.

But Amnesty International's secretary general said world leaders should not be duped. "The Burma authorities will hope that a sentence that is shorter than the maximum will be seen by the international community as an act of leniency," said Irene Khan. "But it is not, and must not be seen as such."

Suu Kyi looked alert but tired during the 90-minute court session. She stood as the verdict was announced and then thanked foreign diplomats for attending her trial.

"I look forward to working with you in the future for the peace and prosperity of my country and the region," Suu Kyi said in a soft voice to diplomats seated nearby. She then was led out of the courtroom.

Officials said she was driven back to her lakeside villa in a six-car convoy.

One of her party members tied yellow ribbons at the gate and two nearby trees as a gesture of welcome. Suu Kyi had been in prison during the trial.

Yettaw, of Falcon, Missouri, swam across a lake the night of May 3, entered Suu Kyi's home uninvited and stayed two nights before trying to secretly swim back.

On Monday night he was returned to Insein prison, the site of the trial, after hospitalization for epileptic seizures.

The court sentenced him to three years in prison for breaching Suu Kyi's house arrest, three years for an immigration violation and a year for swimming in a restricted zone.

Yettaw's lawyer Khin Maung Oo said his client would have to serve his sentence consecutively. He said he would appeal the decision within 60 days, asking the court for leniency.

"He's in good spirit, and he has moral courage," the lawyer said of Yettaw. He said Yettaw was "well" following his release from the hospital.

Yvonne Yettaw, a former wife and the mother of six of his children expressed surprise at the severity of the sentence.

"How is he going to do hard labor if he is so ill?" she told The Associated Press by phone from Palm Springs, California.

Yettaw, a devout Christian, earlier told his lawyer that he swam to Suu Kyi's residence to warn her of an assassination attempt that he had seen in a vision.

Yettaw was hospitalized last Monday after suffering seizures. He reportedly suffers from epilepsy, diabetes and other health problems, including post traumatic stress disorder from his service in the U.S. military.


Edited by looking_up
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