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Suu Kyi denies violating terms of arrest

Aung San Suu Kyi told her trial today that she did not violate the terms of her house arrest.

This file handout picture taken on January 30, 2008 shows Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi meeting with the (unseen) junta's appointed labour minister, Aung Kyi, in Yangon.
This file handout picture taken on January 30, 2008 shows Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi meeting with the (unseen) junta's appointed labour minister, Aung Kyi, in Yangon.

YANGON // Myanmar pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi told her trial today that she did not violate the terms of her house arrest by offering "temporary shelter" to a US man who swam to her lakeside home. The Nobel Peace Prize winner was testifying for the first time at the maximum security Insein Prison in Yangon, in a case which has drawn widespread international condemnation of the country's iron-fisted military junta. "I didn't," the 63-year-old replied when a judge asked her whether she had breached the restriction order keeping her at her residence, according to reporters and diplomats present at the hearing. The long-standing figurehead of Myanmar's opposition movement, Aung San Suu Kyi faces up to five years in jail if convicted. She has been under house arrest or in jail for 13 of the last 19 years, including the last six. She said the first she knew of the bizarre visit by American army veteran John Yettaw was when her assistant woke her up at around dawn on May 4 to tell her that a man had arrived at the house. "I did not inform them," she said when asked by the judge whether she had told Myanmar's military authorities about the intrusion. Aung San Suu Kyi was also asked about claims that she had given Mr Yettaw food and let him stay at the house, replying: "I allowed him to have temporary shelter." The opposition leader said Mr Yettaw left just before midnight on May 5, adding: "I only knew that he went to the lakeside. I did not know which way he went because it was dark." The junta is also trying Mr Yettaw and two female aides who live with Aung San Suu Kyi in her house. Mr Yettaw has said he swam across a lake to the house to warn her of a vision he had that she would be assassinated. Critics accuse Myanmar's junta of trumping up the charges in a bid to keep Aung San Suu Kyi locked up during elections due in 2010. Her party won the country's last elections, in 1990, but was never allowed to take power. In a surprise development, Myanmar authorities informed Aung San Suu Kyi this morning that her six-year period of house arrest was officially over ? although she still remains in detention at the prison, her party said. "We don't know whether we should be happy or sad, because she is still in detention on these charges," said Nyan Win, spokesman for the National League for Democracy (NLD). "I cannot guess the verdict but according to the law she should be completely free." A senior policeman had said this morning that the regime could legally keep her under house arrest for another six months, a statement contested by her lawyers, who said it was due to expire tomorrow. The ruling generals made a rare concession on Tuesday by allowing diplomats and some Myanmar journalists inside the notorious prison to see Aung San Suu Kyi testify. "I don't have any confidence that it (the trial) will produce an impartial judgment," the British ambassador Mark Canning said, adding that the government was keen to show "openness" after being stung by international criticism. He said that the proceedings appeared to have sped up in recent days and that the court had also apparently rejected a request by Aung San Suu Kyi's defence team to have an hour alone with their client. As foreign anger grew, Asian and European foreign ministers meeting in Hanoi issued a joint statement urging Myanmar to release its prisoners but failing to directly condemn her trial. "In light of the concern about the recent developments relating to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, ministers... called for the early release of those under detention and the lifting of restrictions placed on political parties," it said. In a rare move, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations last week expressed "grave concern" over her treatment. Myanmar's neighbours normally prefer not to be seen as intervening in the affairs of their members. Myanmar issued an angry rebuttal to the statement yesterday. *AFP