Suu Kyi disputes ruling, anger grows

August 12, 2009 12:00 am

, YANGON, Aug 12 – Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and her US co-defendant are to appeal against their convictions, lawyers said Wednesday as the ruling junta faced a global wave of anger over her extended detention.

US President Barack Obama led worldwide outrage at the military regime’s decision on Tuesday to give Suu Kyi another 18 months of house arrest, a verdict that shuts the Nobel peace laureate out of elections in 2010.

The UN Security Council broke up an emergency meeting with no condemnation of the ruling generals, but Myanmar’s Asian neighbours issued a rare expression of disappointment at the opposition leader’s sentence.

In Yangon, Suu Kyi’s lawyer Nyan Win said her legal team would appeal because they were "not satisfied" with the judgement, which stemmed from a stunt in which American man John Yettaw swam to her lakeside house in May.

A prison court sentenced her to three years of hard labour after finding her guilty of breaching the terms of her detention, but junta strongman Than Shwe commuted the punishment to a year and a half under house arrest.

"We assume that the judgement is totally wrong according to the law," Nyan Win told AFP, adding that he had received approval from Suu Kyi to proceed and could do so on Wednesday if they received a copy of the judgement.

Police and security forces blocked off the road outside her house on Wednesday.

Lawyers for Yettaw, who was sentenced to seven years of hard labour and imprisonment, would appeal "step-by-step" to the Myanmar court system and if necessary urge Than Shwe to deport him, lawyer Khin Maung Oo said.

He said Yettaw was "very calm" and "hopes for the best."

Suu Kyi has been confined for 14 the past 20 years, ever since the military regime refused to recognise her National League for Democracy’s landslide victory in the last elections held in 1990.

The 64-year-old has been in increasingly poor health but the junta has apparently timed her sentence so that she will be locked up during next year’s multi-party polls, seen as a means of legitimising the generals’ grip on power.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Myanmar is a member, added to the global chorus of dismay, expressing "deep disappointment" in a statement issued by Thailand, the current chair of the bloc.

It also called for the immediate release of Suu Kyi but added that the 10-nation group — which has been criticised in the past for failing to tackle the junta — would "remain constructively engaged with Myanmar."

In Washington, Obama called for Suu Kyi’s "immediate, unconditional release" and for the freeing of more than 2,000 other political prisoners held in Myanmar.

The president said the "unjust" sentence against Suu Kyi would never be able to stamp out the people of Myanmar’s desire for freedom, accusing it of "continued disregard" for UN Security Council statements.

But the Security Council, which counts Myanmar’s allies and military suppliers China and Russia among its five veto-wielding members, failed to sign off on a US-drafted statement condemning the verdict on Suu Kyi.

Britain’s UN Ambassador John Sawers, who is chairing the council this month, said some delegations insisted on sending the draft statement to their capitals for instructions and that debate would resume Wednesday.

China on Wednesday urged the international community to "fully respect Myanmar’s judicial sovereignty," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said in a faxed statement to AFP in Beijing.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown denounced the "sham trial" and French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for more sanctions, which the European Union vowed to implement.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said he was "deeply disappointed" by the Suu Kyi verdict.

"Unless she and all other political prisoners in Myanmar are released and allowed to participate in free and fair elections, the credibility of the political process will remain in doubt," Ban said.


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