Suu Kyi’s shock visitor handed over to US

Author: Associated Press

A US Embassy car retrieved John Yettaw from the prison where he has been held
since early May after he was arrested while swimming away from Suu Kyi’s
house.

US Senator Jim Webb of Virginia secured Yettaw’s release on Saturday and the
two will fly on a military plane to Bangkok, Thailand, later today,
according to a statement from the senator’s office.

Yettaw and Suu Kyi were both convicted last week of breaking the terms of her
house arrest. Suu Kyi, who has been detained for 14 of the last 20 years,
was given 18 months additional house arrest. Yettaw, 53, of Falcon,
Missouri, was also convicted of an immigration violation and swimming in a
restricted zone.

During Mr Webb’s visit to Burma – the first by a member of the US Congress in
more than a decade – the senator also secured a rare visit with Suu Kyi.

Yettaw has been held in Insein, Burma’s largest prison, which is notorious for
widespread torture and other abuse of both political prisoners and ordinary
criminals.

His lawyer has said his client was well-treated, though he fell ill while
incarcerated. Before his conviction on Tuesday, he spent a week in a prison
hospital for epileptic seizures. He is also said to suffer from asthma and
diabetes.

“If it’s true, of course I’m extremely happy and we’re ecstatic,” Betty Yettaw
said, referring to reports her husband would be freed. She had yet to
receive any official notice.

The junta may have approved the meeting with Suu Kyi and agreed to release
Yettaw to quell the torrent of international criticism against Burma
following the trial and Tuesday’s verdict. In July, authorities barred UN
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon from meeting with Suu Kyi during a two-day
visit.

The statement said Mr Webb requested that Suu Kyi be released during a meeting
with junta leader Senior General Than Shwe on Saturday. It was the first
time the reclusive general had met with a senior US official.

“It is my hope that we can take advantage of these gestures as a way to begin
laying the foundations of goodwill and confidence building in the future,”
Mr Webb was quoted as saying in the statement.

Mr Webb, who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s East Asia
and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, described the meeting as “an opportunity
… to convey my deep respect to Aung San Suu Kyi for the sacrifices she has
made on behalf of democracy around the world.”

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