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Myanmar's Suu Kyi blames woes on security breach by Missouri man

Wednesday, May 27, 2009 | 10:39 a.m. CDT

YANGON, Myanmar — Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi blamed a "security breach" for a bizarre visit by a Missouri man that put her in a prison courtroom this week and implied that Myanmar's military government was at fault, according to a statement released by her political party Wednesday.

"The fact that I am the only party being prosecuted shows the partiality of the prosecution," the Nobel Peace Prize laureate said in the statement, which was submitted to the court Tuesday.

Suu Kyi's defense suffered a setback on Wednesday when the court rejected three out of four witnesses her defense team sought to have testify, making it likely the proceedings will finish this week.

If found guilty, Suu Kyi faces up to five years in jail. Myanmar's courts operate under the influence of the military and almost always deal harshly with political dissidents.

Nyan Win, one of Suu Kyi's lawyers, said only a legal expert, Kyi Win, would be allowed to testify. Suu Kyi's defense is seeking to prove that her harboring of the uninvited American did not violate the conditions of her house arrest.

The court rejected the other witnesses — all members of Suu Kyi's party, including one under house arrest — saying their testimony was aimed at "vexation or delay or for defeating the ends of justice."

"This is unfair," Nyan Win told reporters. He said the sole defense witness would testify Thursday, and the trial might reach a verdict Friday.

Critics say the junta is trying to keep Suu Kyi in detention during elections it has planned for next year.

Suu Kyi acknowledges she allowed American John W. Yettaw, 53, of Falcon to stay for two days early this month after he swam across a lake to enter her house uninvited and then said he was too tired and ill to leave immediately.

"This incident occurred because of a security breach (by authorities). However, until now no action has been taken on security," she said in her statement, in an apparent reference to the lack of charges against the security personnel guarding her house arrest.

Yettaw was arrested after he swam away. He faces the same charge. He testified Wednesday that he had a dream that Suu Kyi would be assassinated and had gone to warn her.

Suu Kyi said when Yettaw first tried to visit her house, in November 2008, she reported the incident to authorities through her personal doctor, one of the few outside people she was permitted to meet, but no action was taken.

She said she also intended to report his visit this month through her doctor, Tin Myo Win, but he was not allowed into her house and was later held by authorities for more than a week.

The trial has sparked intense criticism of Myanmar's military regime, even among the country's Asian neighbors who normally refrain from commenting on its internal affairs.

President Barack Obama said Tuesday that Suu Kyi's continued detention, isolation and "show trial based on spurious charges" cast serious doubt on the Myanmar government's willingness to be a responsible member of the international community.

Asian and European ministers, meeting in Vietnam, urged Myanmar to release Suu Kyi, lift restrictions on political parties, and prepare for free, fair and multiparty elections in 2010. Myanmar's neighbor Thailand has said it has "grave concerns" about the trial.

"Aung San Suu Kyi is an indispensable partner in the dialogue leading to national reconciliation in Myanmar," Jan Kohout, deputy prime minister of the Czech Republic, said in Hanoi. "She should be released immediately." The Czech Republic currently holds the presidency of the European Union.

Suu Kyi, whose 64th birthday is June 19, has spent more than 13 of the past 19 years in detention without trial, most at her dilapidated Yangon home.

In Yangon, Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy marked two milestones — Suu Kyi's sixth year under continuous detention and the 19th anniversary of their overwhelming election victory, which the junta has never recognized.

Party leaders released 64 doves and sparrows and observed a minute of silence at their Yangon headquarters as 250 party members held candles to mark the anniversaries. More than 60 plainclothes police videotaped and photographed the members and guests.

Suu Kyi rose to prominence as a leader of a 1988 democracy uprising that the military brutally suppressed. Her latest term of house arrest was to have ended Wednesday, according to her supporters. The junta argues it would have expired in November, but in any event has canceled her house arrest order, apparently because this is required by law when a suspect is charged with a crime.


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