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Aung San Suu Kyi convicted, will serve house arrest

The court first sentenced the Nobel Peace Prize winner to three years in prison, but the junta chief cut that in half and said she could serve it at home.

August 11, 2009|Associated Press

YANGON, MYANMAR — A Myanmar court convicted pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi today of violating her house arrest, but the head of the military-ruled country said that she could serve a 1 1/2-year sentence under house arrest.

The court initially sentenced Suu Kyi to three years in prison. But after a five-minute recess, the country's home minister entered the courtroom and read aloud a special order from junta chief Than Shwe.

The order said that Than Shwe was cutting the sentence in half to 1 1/2 years and that it could be served under house arrest. He said he reduced the sentence to "maintain peace and tranquillity" and because Suu Kyi was the daughter of Aung San, a revered hero who won Myanmar's independence from Britain.

Suu Kyi has been in detention for 14 of the last 20 years, mostly under house arrest.

The 64-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner was charged after an American intruder swam across a lake and spent two nights at her home in early May.

She could have been sentenced to as long as five years in prison.

The American, John Yettaw, was sentenced to seven years' prison, including four years' hard labor.

Minutes before the hearing began, journalists were unexpectedly allowed to enter the courtroom, inside Yangon's closely guarded Insein prison. Diplomats were also present.

Journalists had been allowed to cover proceedings on only two prior occasions since the trial started May 18.

Suu Kyi's trial drew international condemnation, with analysts and diplomats anticipating a guilty verdict.

A verdict had been scheduled for last Friday, but judges said they needed more time to sort through legal issues and it was rescheduled for today.

Suu Kyi's lawyer, Nyan Win, had said Monday that he had expected the rulings to be delayed again because Yettaw had spent a week in a hospital.

But a government official said Yettaw was discharged Monday night from Yangon General Hospital.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Yettaw, 53, of Falcon, Mo., was charged as an abettor in violating her detention.

He was hospitalized last week after suffering seizures. He reportedly has epilepsy, diabetes and other health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder from his service in the U.S. military.

National police Chief Khin Yi told the media last week that a team of seven medical doctors looked after Yettaw. But he declined to comment on his condition.

The trial of Suu Kyi refocused international outrage on Myanmar -- also known as Burma -- which has been ruled by its military since 1962.

The regime in recent days has beefed up security in Yangon, claiming that domestic and foreign opposition groups were planning attacks to coincide with the Suu Kyi trial.

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