Suu Kyi to challenge verdict as global anger grows

12th August 2009, Comments 0 comments

Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi will appeal against the sentence of another 18 months of house arrest, says her lawyer.

Yangon – Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and her US co-defendant are to appeal against their convictions, lawyers said Wednesday as the ruling junta faced a global wave of anger over her extended detention.

US President Barack Obama led worldwide outrage at the military regime's decision on Tuesday to give Suu Kyi another 18 months of house arrest, a verdict that shuts the Nobel peace laureate out of elections in 2010.

The UN Security Council broke up an emergency meeting with no condemnation of Myanmar and China urged respect for the country's sovereignty, but Myanmar's Southeast Asian neighbours issued a rare expression of disappointment.

In Yangon, Suu Kyi's lawyer Nyan Win said her legal team would appeal because they were "not satisfied" with the judgement, which stemmed from a stunt in which American man John Yettaw swam to her lakeside house in May.

A prison court sentenced her to three years of hard labour after finding her guilty of breaching the terms of her incarceration, but junta strongman Than Shwe commuted the punishment to a year and a half under house arrest.

"We assume that the judgement is totally wrong according to the law," Nyan Win told AFP, adding that he had received approval from Suu Kyi to proceed and could do so on Wednesday if they received a copy of the judgement.

Police and security forces blocked off the road outside her house on Wednesday.

Lawyers for Yettaw, who was sentenced to seven years of hard labour and imprisonment, would appeal "step by step" to the Myanmar court system and if necessary urge Than Shwe to deport him, lawyer Khin Maung Oo said.

He said Yettaw was "very calm" and "hopes for the best".

Suu Kyi, 64, has been confined for 14 of the past 20 years, ever since the military regime refused to recognise her National League for Democracy's landslide victory in the last elections held in 1990.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Myanmar is a member, added to the global chorus of dismay at the verdict, expressing "deep disappointment".

It also called for the immediate release of Suu Kyi but added that the 10-nation group – which has been criticised in the past for failing to tackle the junta – would "remain constructively engaged with Myanmar".

But China – a key ally and major military supplier of the junta – urged the international community to "fully respect Myanmar's judicial sovereignty", foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said.

The UN Security Council, which counts China and Russia among its five veto-wielding members, failed to sign off on a US-drafted statement condemning the verdict on Suu Kyi.

Debate was due to resume on Wednesday after some delegations, including China, insisted on sending the draft statement to their capitals.

In Washington, Obama called for Suu Kyi's "immediate, unconditional release" and for the freeing of more than 2,000 other political prisoners held in Myanmar.

The US president said the "unjust" sentence against Suu Kyi would never be able to stamp out the people of Myanmar's desire for freedom, accusing the regime of "continued disregard" for UN Security Council statements.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said he was "deeply disappointed" by the Suu Kyi verdict.

Myanmar's state media hit back at outside involvement, with the junta-controlled New Light of Myanmar newspaper deriding those who "interfere in the internal affairs of other countries".

On the streets of Yangon there was no sign of the unrest that the state media had warned against.

"People are glad that she (Suu Kyi) is at home... But things will be quiet again after one week as our people have to worry about their own lives. It is more important than politics," said security guard Zaw Naing.

AFP / Expatica

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