Obama leads world condemnation of Suu Kyi verdict

12th August 2009, Comments 0 comments

A court convicted the Nobel peace laureate at the end of a marathon trial for breaching the terms of her detention, following a bizarre incident in which an American man swam uninvited to her lakeside home in May.

Washington -- US President Barack Obama led global calls Tuesday for the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi and the European Union pledged new sanctions after her house arrest was extended.

Obama called for Suu Kyi's "immediate, unconditional release" and denounced the "unjust decision" after she was ordered to remain under house arrest for a further 18 months, beyond elections due in 2010.

A court convicted the Nobel peace laureate at the end of a marathon trial for breaching the terms of her detention, following a bizarre incident in which an American man swam uninvited to her lakeside home in May.

The United Nations Security Council adjourned an emergency session without agreement on a statement to condemn the verdict, but UN chief Ban Ki-moon said earlier he was "deeply disappointed" by the move.

Ban called on Myanmar's ruling generals "to immediately and unconditionally release" the democracy icon.

Incensed by the verdict, 14 fellow Nobel peace laureates wrote an open letter to the UN Security Council denouncing the verdict.

The sentence, which effectively ruled out any possibility of the 64-year-old standing in polls next year, provoked immediate calls for tougher sanctions against the military rulers who prevented Suu Kyi from taking power after her party won elections in 1990.

The European Union's Swedish presidency said the 27-nation bloc "will respond with additional targeted measures against those responsible for the verdict," a move hailed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"The sentence is an obstacle to the introduction of political and democratic reform in Myanmar," Merkel said.

This "political trial," Sarkozy's office said, "is solely aimed at preventing Aung San Suu Kyi from waging her struggle for a democratic and free Burma."

Gordon Brown, prime minister of Myanmar's former colonial power Britain, said he was "saddened and angry" at the "sham trial."

The verdict was "extremely regrettable," said Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Suu Kyi's continued detention was "unjustified and unacceptable on all accounts."

Former Czech President Vaclav Havel, who was imprisoned during the communist era, said the house arrest extension was "scandalous" and reflected the "political cynicism of one of the toughest totalitarian regimes in the world."

Criticism was more muted closer to home, but Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said Suu Kyi should be released immediately and called for an urgent meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regional bloc.

"They don't want her to be out before the election," said Philippine Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo, while an Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman said Jakarta was "very disappointed" by the verdict.

Myanmar's giant neighbour India refrained from denouncing the outcome, but foreign ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash said New Delhi "has emphasized to the government of Myanmar the need to expedite the political reform and national reconciliation process."

Prakash called for a "broadbased" process that includes various ethnic groups and said that in this context, "the issue of the release of political prisoners will no doubt receive due attention."

There was no reaction out of Myanmar's two other powerful regional neighbours, China and Thailand, which have, along with India, been accused in the past of helping to prop up the junta in Yangon.

Irene Khan, secretary general of London-based Amnesty International, described the verdict as "shameful" and "nothing more than legal and political theatre."

New York-based Human Rights Watch called the conviction a "reprehensible abuse of power" and urged regional allies to press for her release.

AFP/Expatica

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