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August 17, 2009

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Myanmar releases convicted American

AN American man imprisoned in Myanmar for sneaking into the home of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi flew out of the country yesterday after a visiting United States senator won his release.

John Yettaw of Falcon, Missouri, arrived in Bangkok, Thailand, on a US government plane with Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, who secured his freedom on Saturday with a plea to Myanmar's government.

A pale and haggard-looking Yettaw smiled as he left the small plane and flashed sign language for "I love you" to waiting reporters but did not respond to questions.

Yettaw, 53, was convicted last week of breaking the terms of Suu Kyi's house arrest by swimming to her lakeside home in early May and staying for two days.

Webb was also allowed a rare meeting with Suu Kyi, who is tightly restricted in her house arrest. His meeting on Saturday with Senior General Than Shwe was the first time the Myanmar leader has met with a senior US political figure.

Webb said he also asked the Myanmar government to release Suu Kyi, 64, a leading opposition leader.

"I am hopeful that the relations between the United States and Myanmar will move forward and that the government will consider strongly" the request, Webb said before leaving Myanmar.

Yettaw was convicted of an immigration violation and of swimming in a restricted zone, and received a total of seven years in prison with hard labor.

Yettaw has said he made the visit to Suu Kyi's house because he had a vision that she was at risk of harm from assassins.


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