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SA calls for immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi

South Africa’s foreign minister expressed grave concern on Friday over the trial of Burma Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, calling for her immediate release.

“It is with regret that the South African government learnt of the new charges against Aung San Suu Kyi less than two weeks before her house arrest was due to end,” read a statement from the Foreign Ministry.

“The South African government also took note of the recent reports on Ms Suu Kyi’s poor health and fears that the arrest may worsen her condition.”

The leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), Aung San Suu Kyi (63) has been imprisoned for 13 of the past 19 years, and was arrested for breaching terms of her house arrest when an American swam across a lake to her house earlier this month and stayed for two days.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been put on trial ahead of elections next year, the first since 1990 where the military junta refused to accept the ouright win of the NLD.

She was not present for the morning court session on Friday, but was expected to arrive in the afternoon.

“The South African government calls on the authorities in Burma to release Ms Suu Kyi immediately,” read the statement.

“For the general elections due to be held in Burma in 2010 to be as viewed free and fair, the process should be all inclusive and for this reason, the military government of Burma is urged to release political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi in order to participate in the electoral process.”

During a two-year stint at the United Nations Security Council, South Africa’s former government under Thabo Mbeki was criticised after it voted against a resolution condemning human rights abuses in Burma.

This raised questions about South Africa’s commitment to fighting human rights abusers, as the country also blocked a debate on neighbouring Zimbabwe.

However, South Africa argued the issue of Burma would have been better handled by the Human Rights Council.

New Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane has not signalled any major shift in foreign policy, but said Burma needed a “negotiated political solution between the government and the opposition”.– AFP

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