Myanmar says Aung San Suu Kyi in detention till Nov 27

May 26th, 2009 - 11:38 am ICT by IANS  

Yangon, May 26 (DPA) Myanmar’s junta Tuesday denied that opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s current detention period will expire Wednesday, although officials claimed they had considered freeing her until a US national swam to her home-cum-prison in Yangon this month.
Police Brigadier General Myint Thein told more than 40 diplomats and 25 journalists who had gathered Tuesday at Insein Prison to attend Suu Kyi’s trial for breaking the rules of her house detention that her current detention period will expire Nov 27, this year, not Wednesday, as has been widely speculated.

“But the government was considering releasing her on May 27, before this Yettaw incident happened,” Myint Thein, who heads Myanmar’s Police Special Branch, said.

Suu Kyi is now on trial at a special court in Insein Prison for breaking her terms of house arrest by allowing US national John William Yettaw, 53, to swim to her lakeside home May 3 and remain there until swimming away May 6, when he was arrested.

Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has been under detention, mostly at her family home in Yangon, which rims Inya Lake, for the past six years.

She was arrested May 27, 2003, while campaigning in central Myanmar for the National League for Democracy (NLD) opposition party, which she leads. Authorities accused Suu Kyi of undermining national security, after pro-junta thugs attacked her and her convoy, killing several NLD followers.

Under Myanmar law the charge carried a maximum jail term of less than six years. But there is some legal debate about when Suu Kyi’s house detention began, as she spent some months in Insein jail recovering from her injuries after her arrest in 2003.

The legal quibbling about her previous detention period is largely moot now, as Suu Kyi faces another three to five-year jail term if found guilty of breaking the terms of her detention by allegedly allowing Yettaw to visit her.

More than 40 foreign diplomats and United Nations officials were invited to attend Suu Kyi’s trial Tuesday at which she is scheduled to testify for the first time since the court case began May 18.

Nyan Win, one of Suu Kyi’s lawyers, complained Monday evening that the defence team had not been allowed sufficient time to brief Suu Kyi, who has been in Insein Prison since May 14.

The defence will present four witnesses Tuesday, including Win Tin, veteran journalist and senior executive member of the NLD.

Suu Kyi’s “show trial” has been widely criticised by the international community and even some of Myanmar’s close allies in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), who have raised concerns that the frail pro-democracy icon may face five more years of imprisonment, perhaps in the notorious Insein jail, after spending 14 of the past 20 years under house arrest.

Myanmar’s ruling junta was expected to come under pressure at the Asia-European foreign ministers meeting in Hanoi Tuesday to free Suu Kyi and some 2,100 other political prisoners as a crucial step towards adding credibility to a general election the junta plans to hold next year.

It is widely believed that the judges would find Suu Kyi guilty and sentence her to another three to five years in detention, long enough to keep her out of the political picture while the junta stages a general election in 2010.

Suu Kyi, 63, is the leader of the NLD opposition party which won the 1990 general election by a landslide, but has been blocked from power by Myanmar’s junta for the past 19 years. She has spent 13 of those years under house arrest.

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