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Video by Yuka ROYER


Latest update : 2009-08-12

World leaders harshly criticised Burma after a court sentenced democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi to 18 months of house arrest, which prevents her from running in next year's elections. The UN Security Council is also expected to meet over the verdict.

AFP - Western powers Tuesday harshly criticised Myanmar over Aung San Suu Kyi's sentencing, with the EU pledging new sanctions and the US denouncing her trial, while the UN chief called for her release.

After the authorities ordered the Nobel peace prize laureate and democracy icon to remain under house arrest for a further 18 months, 14 other peace prize winners wrote an open letter to the UN Security Council denouncing the outcome.

A statement from UN chief Ban Ki-moon's office said "the secretary general is deeply disappointed by the verdict ... (and) strongly deplores this decision."

Ban called on Myanmar's ruling generals "to immediately and unconditionally release" Suu Kyi and "to engage with her without delay as an essential partner in the process of national dialogue and reconciliation."

The sentence, which effectively ruled out any possibility of the 64-year-old standing in polls next year, provoked immediate calls for tougher sanctions against the military rulers who prevented Suu Kyi from taking power after her party won elections in 1990.

"The EU will respond with additional targeted measures against those responsible for the verdict," the European Union's Swedish presidency said in a statement on behalf of the 27-nation bloc.

President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso said Suu Kyi's continued detention was "unjustified and unacceptable on all accounts".

An EU source said a "written procedure" had been launched to beef up the sanctions which could come into force on Friday if there was no opposition from the bloc's members.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also denounced the sentence.

"She should not have been tried and she should not have been convicted," she said, speaking during a visit to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Gordon Brown, prime minister of the former colonial power Britain, said he was "saddened and angry" at the verdict in the "sham trial".

"This is a purely political sentence designed to prevent her from taking part in the regime’s planned elections next year," he said.

Criticism was more muted closer to home but Malaysia's foreign minister said Suu Kyi should be released immediately and called for an urgent meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regional bloc.

"We were hoping that the junta will release her unconditionally and will hold an election to enable Suu Kyi and other political detainees to participate in that election," Anifah Aman told AFP.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo made a similar point: "They don't want her to be out before the election," he told reporters.

And a third ASEAN member Indonesia said it was "very disappointed" by the verdict in a statement from a foreign ministry spokesman.

There was no reaction, however, from China, Thailand and India, Myanmar's three powerful regional neighbours. In the past they have been accused of helping to prop up the junta in Yangon.

Irene Khan, secretary general of London-based Amnesty International, described the verdict as "shameful" and "nothing more than legal and political theatre".

New York-based Human Rights Watch called the conviction a "reprehensible abuse of power" and urged regional allies to press for her release.

In an open letter addressed to the UN Security Council, 14 Nobel laureates said their "sister" Suu Kyi, who won the peace prize in 1991, "has again been found guilty on trumped up charges."

Date created : 2009-08-11