/ 21 December 2009

Burma court agrees to hear Suu Kyi appeal

Burma’s Supreme Court agreed on Monday to hear an appeal against the house arrest of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was sentenced in August to a further 18 months in detention for breaking a security law.

No date was set to hear the appeal, although Suu Kyi’s lawyer, Nyan Win, said he expected to present the case within a month.

The Nobel laureate was sentenced to three years in prison last August for allowing an American intruder to stay at her lakeside residence for two nights

The court said that broke a law protecting the army-ruled state from ”subversive elements” and breached the terms of her house arrest.

The sentence was immediately commuted to a further 18 months of house arrest by the junta, as a gesture of respect for her late father, independence hero Aung San. Suu Kyi has spent 14 of the past 20 years in some form of detention.

Her legal team has argued that the law she was charged under can no longer be applied because it was part of the 1974 constitution, which was replaced last year.

The guilty verdict sparked an international outcry, with critics dismissing it as an attempt to keep the charismatic Suu Kyi in detention ahead of next year’s elections, the first in the former Burma for two decades.

Some observers said the court’s decision to accept the case would make no difference and she would be released only if it suited junta supremo Than Shwe.

”It’s a purely political issue and the order to free her will come from Senior General Than Shwe, not from the Supreme Court,” said a retired senior civil servant from Rangoon, who declined to be named.

”I think her release will come when the regime feels confident enough.” — Reuters