Obama slams Burma 'show trial'

Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi marked six years in detention on Wednesday as her supporters freed birds and prayed for the Nobel laureate facing a possible further five years in jail.

As Suu Kyi’s closed prison trial continued for an eighth day, about 250 members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) gathered at the party’s dilapidated headquarters in Rangoon.

“We call for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners,” NLD member U Ohn Kyaing told the crowd as secret police watched nearby, cameras clicking.

Suu Kyi (63) is accused of breaking the terms of her house arrest by allowing an univited American intruder to stay for two days after he swam to her home on May 4.

She is widely expected to be found guilty by a special court in Rangoon’s Insein prison, where the American John Yettaw and her two female housemates are also on trial.

A ruling could come as early as Friday, her lawyers said.

Suu Kyi has denied the charges and, in a written statement to the court on Tuesday, blamed the incident on a breach of security and noted that no officials were held accountable.

“It is a one-side measure to take legal action against me. I hereby submit that I did not commit the offence alleged by the prosecutor,” she said in the statement released by her party.

The West has denounced the trial as a charade to keep the charismatic NLD leader in detention during the junta’s promised 2010 election. Critics say the poll will entrench military power after nearly a half century of rule.

Wednesday marked the anniversary of the NLD’s landslide election victory in 1990, which the generals ignored.

It was also the sixth year of Suu Kyi’s latest spell in detention.
Authorities lifted her house arrest order on Tuesday, but she remains in prison while awaiting a verdict.

Suu Kyi has spent more than 13 of the past 19 years in some form of detention, mostly at her lakeside home under police guard, her phone line cut and visitors restricted.

“Show trial”
In Washington, United States President Barack Obama demanded her release “immediately and unconditionally”.

“Aung San Suu Kyi’s continued detention, isolation, and show trial based on spurious charges cast serious doubt on the Burmese regime’s willingness to be a responsible member of the international community,” Obama said in a statement.

In Hanoi, Asian and European foreign ministers “called for the early release of those under detention and the lifting of restrictions placed on political parties”.

Burma’s generals, the latest in an unbroken line of military rulers since 1962, have ignored the outcry, or sought to defuse it by twice allowing diplomats to observe the trial.

Analysts say a guilty verdict is almost inevitable in a country where more than 2 000 political prisoners are behind bars and courts routinely bend the law to the suit the junta.

Yettaw, the 53-year-old man whose late-night swim across Inya Lake triggered the trial, was due to testify on Wednesday.

The Missouri resident has said he dreamed Suu Kyi was going to be assassinated and he wanted to warn her.

Suu Kyi has denied any prior knowledge of Yettaw’s plans, but said she did not alert authorities for fear he would be arrested.

“My political colleagues are serving long prison terms without any consideration or protection from the law. I allowed him to take temporary refuge in my political belief that I will not push anyone into custody,” her statement said.

“It does not matter who are the intruders or whatever their motive, I just did it out of my political belief.”

Yettaw, labelled a “crazy guy” by Burmese exiles, is charged with immigration violations, illegal swimming and breaking a security law that protects the state from “subversive elements”.

Suu Kyi’s two female housemates, Daw Khin Khin Win and Ma Win Ma Ma, will also give testimony on Wednesday. They are charged under the same security law.—Reuters

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