/ 31 July 2009

Aung San Suu Kyi chooses jail reading list

As she reconciles herself to the prospect of up to five years in a prison cell, there is a certain poignancy to plans by Aung San Suu Kyi — a woman cruelly denied her chance to lead — to draw strength from the life of one of the 20th century’s great statesmen.

While the court was due to deliver a verdict in her widely condemned trial on Friday, but later adjourned the decision until August 11, the Burmese pro-democracy leader was preparing for the possibility of prison life by stocking up on books, including a biography of Winston Churchill.

Books she has asked to take with her if found guilty also include novels by John le Carré, books on French history and Burmese-language works on Buddhism.

”She has said that if she has to stay in prison for a long time, she has only one thing to do, and that is reading,” her lawyer, Nyan Win, said. He added, however, that he hoped she would be released ”according to the law”.

Nyan Win said his 64-year-old client was ”physically and mentally fine, and very alert”, adding that a supply of medicine is also among the few belongings she will be allowed to keep.

Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for 14 of the last 20 years, faces up to five years in prison if found guilty of harbouring John Yettaw, an uninvited American guest, for two nights at her lakeside compound in early May.

Observers believe that, at the least, the court will place her under house arrest.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s trial has drawn widespread condemnation since it opened on May 18, but pressure on the ruling generals to drop the case has failed.

Critics say the junta is using Yettaw’s intrusion as an excuse to keep her out of the public eye during elections it has promised to hold next year.

Yettaw (53) who said he had swum to the compound to warn Aung San Suu Kyi of a vision that she was about to be assassinated, is charged with abetting her in her house arrest violation and faces up to five years in prison.

Her lawyers argue the law she is being charged under belonged to a Constitution that was abolished 25 years ago, and blame security guards for failing to apprehend Yettaw. She told the court she had pleaded with him to leave but relented after he claimed he was too unwell to swim back.

Two women who lived at the compound are standing trial on the same charges.

Burma’s tightly controlled state media have warned people not to organise protests to coincide with the verdict.

The New Light of Myanmar newspaper said the authorities would ”ward off subversive elements and disruptions”, and called for vigilance in case ”some arouse the people to take to the streets to come to power”.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won a landslide victory in elections in 1990, but the country’s military leaders refused to accept the result. – guardian.co.uk