Suu Kyi: ‘Conviction is totally unfair’

Author: AP

Four of her lawyers were allowed to visit the Nobel Peace Prize laureate at
her lakeside home for an hour to discuss an appeal of her conviction
yesterday on charges of violating the terms of her previous house arrest.

A Burmese court found Suu Kyi, 64, guilty of sheltering an uninvited American
visitor. Her sentence of three years in prison with hard labor was reduced
to 18 months of house arrest by order of the head of the country’s ruling
military junta, Senior Gen. Than Shwe.

“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said the conviction was totally unfair and the
court’s assessment of the case was not just,” lawyer Nyan Win said. “Daw”
is a term of respect for older women. Her defense had contended that it was
the responsibility of the police guarding her house to keep out intruders.

The conviction, though expected, drew sharp criticism from world leaders and
human rights groups, as well as promises of new European Union sanctions
against Myanmar. Her detention will keep her from participating in the
junta’s planned elections next year, the first polls since 1990, when her
party won overwhelmingly but was not allowed to take power.

Suu Kyi’s defense team will appeal as soon as it receives a certified copy of
the judgment from the district court, Nyan Win said.

The pro-democracy leader has been detained for about 14 of the past 20 years
for her nonviolent political activities, but this was the first time she
faced a criminal trial.

Suu Kyi had been under house arrest since 2003, but was taken to Yangon’s
Insein Prison in May for trial after American John Yettaw secretly swam to
her house and spent two days there.

Yettaw was also convicted of violating the terms of her house arrest, as well
as violating immigration laws and a ban on swimming in Inya Lake, on which
Suu Kyi’s house fronts. He was sentenced to seven years in prison with hard
labor.

Suu Kyi was returned to her house yesterday. Nyan Win said she was well and
looked very happy to be home.

“She said she slept well last night,” he told reporters. A new
barbed-wire fence has been erected at the lakeside entrance to her home,
where Yettaw entered.

Suu Kyi also told her lawyers she needed clarification from the authorities
regarding the terms of her house arrest, regarding matters such as
visitation rights and medical coverage.

Under the court’s eight-point stipulation, Suu Kyi and two female companions
who stay with her can receive visitors with prior permission from the
authorities and have the right to medical treatment by doctors and nurses.
Nyan Win said Suu Kyi wanted to know if she could be treated by her personal
physician.

Her conviction and continued detention were condemned by world leaders and
sparked demonstrations in cities from London to Japan on Tuesday. The
European Union began preparing new sanctions against the country’s military
regime, and a group of 14 Nobel laureates, including the Dalai Lama and
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, called on the UN Security Council to take strong
action against Myanmar.

The Dalai Lama issued his own message of concern today, appealing to Myanmar
authorities “as a fellow Buddhist … to show magnanimity and
understanding” by releasing Suu Kyi.

President Barack Obama called the conviction a violation of the universal
principle of human rights and said Suu Kyi should be released immediately.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called for the release of more
than 2,000 political prisoners, including Yettaw.

The country’s state-run newspapers, which many in Myanmar normally don’t
bother to read, were sold out Wednesday with people eager to learn about the
verdict.

“I am not surprised that (Suu Kyi) was sentenced to three years because
that is what the government wants to do, keep her locked up during the
elections,” said Soe Nyunt, a 34-year-old grocery shop owner.

“It was at least a relief that Daw Suu is kept in her house. I had
thought the government would keep her inside Insein Prison,” said Moe
Moe, a 45-year-old school teacher.

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