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August 12, 2009

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Suu Kyi sentenced to house detention

A MYANMAR court found opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi guilty yesterday of violating her house arrest by allowing an uninvited American to stay at her home. And the government ordered her to serve an 18-month sentence under house arrest.

The 64-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate has already been in detention for 14 of the past 20 years, mostly under house arrest, and the extension will remove her from the scene while the country holds elections next year.

Suu Kyi looked alert but tired during the 90-minute court session. After the verdict was announced, she stood and thanked foreign diplomats for attending her trial.

"I hope we can all work for peace and prosperity of the country," Suu Kyi said in a soft voice to diplomats seated nearby. She then was led out of the courtroom.

Officials said she was driven back to her lakeside villa to serve the house arrest.

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

Suu Kyi had faced up to five years in prison for allowing Yettaw to stay for two nights after he swam across a lake to reach her.

The court initially sentenced Suu Kyi to a three-year prison term. But after a five-minute recess, the country's home minister entered the courtroom and read aloud a special order from Senior General Than Shwe, chairman of the ruling State Peace and Development Council.

The order said Than Shwe was cutting the sentence in half to 18 months and it could be served under house arrest.

Than Shwe said he reduced the sentence to "maintain peace and tranquility" and because Suu Kyi was the daughter of Aung San, a hero who won Myanmar's independence from Britain.

Yettaw, 53, was returned to Insein prison, the site of the trial, after hospitalization for epileptic seizures.

The court sentenced him to three years in prison for breaching Suu Kyi's house arrest. He was also sentenced to three years in prison with hard labor for an immigration violation and to another one-year term with hard labor for swimming in a restricted zone.

Yettaw earlier told his lawyer that he swam to Suu Kyi's residence to warn her of an assassination attempt that he had seen in a vision.


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