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Myanmar's Suu Kyi prepares for worst before Friday ruling

Thursday, July 30, 2009 | 4:32 p.m. CDT

YANGON, Myanmar — Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is bracing for Friday's ruling in Myanmar on whether she violated the terms of her house arrest by harboring an American, a decision that could send the frail icon of democracy to prison for up to five years.

The 64-year-old opposition leader was described by her lawyer Nyan Win as "physically and mentally fine, and very alert" Thursday. But he said she was also preparing for the worst, gathering medicine and several spy novels and biographies should she be given a lengthy prison term.

"She is getting ready for any result," Nyan Win said. "She is preparing for the worst."

Suu Kyi is charged with violating the terms of her lengthy house arrest when an American intruder, a man from Missouri, swam across a lake and spent two nights at her home in May. Her trial in a court at Myanmar's Insein Prison has drawn international condemnation since it opened May 18, and many critics see it as a pretext to keeping her behind bars through the country's planned elections next year.

She is widely expected to be convicted, although there has been speculation she may stay under house arrest rather than serve time in jail. Suu Kyi has been in detention for 14 of the last 20 years, since leading a pro-democracy uprising in 1988 that was crushed by Myanmar's military junta.

A verdict will also be given Friday for the uninvited American visitor, John Yettaw, 53, and Khin Khin Win and her daughter Win Ma Ma who stayed with Suu Kyi during her house arrest. Yettaw is charged as an abettor in violating her house arrest and faces up to five years in prison.

Threatened by a woman who remains the country's most popular politician, the junta has repeatedly detained her. During her brief moments of freedom, she was constantly hounded by the junta and a pro-government mob attacked her caravan in 2003.

If convicted, the charismatic mother of two will return to a lonely life, her days filled with mediation, reading books and getting the occasional censored letters. Knowing she could be put behind bars, Suu Kyi provided her lawyers with a list of requested items, which they were able to bring her, Nyan Win said.

"She is collecting some medicine and many books in English, French and Burmese," he said.

Suu Kyi's lawyers have not contested the basic facts of the case but argued that the law used by authorities against her is invalid because it applies to a constitution abolished two decades ago. They also said that government security guards stationed outside Suu Kyi's compound should be held responsible for any intrusion.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters in New York on Wednesday that he hopes the government will respond to his repeated appeals to free Suu Kyi.

But neither outside pressure nor the possibility of better economic and political ties with the West has deterred the ruling junta, which appears determined to find Suu Kyi guilty and keep her out of the public eye.


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