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Washington calls for Suu Kyi's 'immediate and unconditional' release

Latest update : 2009-05-27

US President Barack Obama has urged Burma's ruling generals to release opposition leader and democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi "immediately and unconditionally", dismissing her hearing as a "show trial."

AFP - The trial of Aung San Suu Kyi was due to continue Wednesday as US President Barack Obama urged Myanmar to immediately free the pro-democracy icon, describing her hearing as a "show trial."

The Nobel Peace Prize winner testified for the first time at her trial on Tuesday, telling the court that she did not violate the terms of her house arrest by offering shelter to a US man who swam to her lakeside home.

In Washington, Obama called on Myanmar's military rulers to "immediately and unconditionally" release the 63-year-old democracy leader

"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," he said in a statement.

"It is time for the Burmese government to drop all charges against Aung San Suu Kyi and unconditionally release her and her fellow political prisoners," Obama said, referring to Myanmar's leaders using the country's former name.

The case has drawn widespread international condemnation of the country's iron-fisted military junta.

Aung San Suu Kyi testified at the maximum security Insein Prison in Yangon Tuesday that she had not breached the restriction order keeping her at her residence, according to reporters and diplomats present at the hearing.

The long-standing figurehead of Myanmar's opposition movement, Aung San Suu Kyi faces up to five years in jail if convicted. She has been under house arrest or in jail for 13 of the last 19 years, including the last six.

She said the first she knew of the bizarre visit by American army veteran John Yettaw was when her assistant woke her up at around dawn on May 4 to tell her that a man had arrived at the house.

The junta is also trying Yettaw and two female aides who live with Aung San Suu Kyi in her house. Yettaw has said he swam across a lake to the house to warn her of a vision he had that she would be assassinated.

Critics accuse Myanmar's junta of trumping up the charges in a bid to keep Aung San Suu Kyi locked up during elections due in 2010. Her party won the country's last elections, in 1990, but was never allowed to take power.

In a surprise development, Myanmar authorities informed Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday morning that her six-year period of house arrest was officially over -- although she still remains in detention at the prison, her party said.

"We don't know whether we should be happy or sad, because she is still in detention on these charges," said Nyan Win, spokesman for the National League for Democracy (NLD).

"I cannot guess the verdict but according to the law she should be completely free."

A senior policeman had said on Tuesday morning that the regime could legally keep her under house arrest for another six months, a statement contested by her lawyers, who said it was due to expire on Wednesday.

The ruling generals made a rare concession on Tuesday by allowing diplomats and some Myanmar journalists inside the notorious prison to see Aung San Suu Kyi testify.

"I don't have any confidence that it (the trial) will produce an impartial judgment," British Ambassador Mark Canning said, adding that the government was keen to show "openness" after being stung by international criticism.

He said that the proceedings appeared to have sped up in recent days and that the court had also apparently rejected a request by Aung San Suu Kyi's defence team to have an hour alone with their client.

The military has ruled Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, since 1962.

Date created : 2009-05-27