Supreme Court rejects Suu Kyi’s appeal
Burma’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal by popular opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi against an 18-month extension to her house arrest. Suu Kyi is effectively barred from standing in elections that Burma's junta has promised to hold this year.
AFP - Myanmar's Supreme Court on Friday rejected an appeal by pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi against an 18-month extension to her house arrest, an official said.
"The appeal was rejected," the official said on condition of anonymity, adding that the appeals of Suu Kyi's two female assistants against similar periods of detention were also thrown out.
The 64-year-old opposition leader had her incarceration lengthened by 18 months in August after being convicted over a bizarre incident in which an American man swam to her lakeside home.
A lower court rejected an initial appeal in October.
"The appeal was rejected," the Myanmar official said on condition of anonymity, adding that the appeals of Suu Kyi's two female assistants against similar periods of detention were also thrown out.
Foreign ambassadors including the British, French and Australian envoys went to the court in the former capital Yangon to hear the verdict, witnesses said.
Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi can now make a final appeal to Myanmar's chief justice -- an option her lawyers said they would pursue.
Suu Kyi has already spent 14 of the last 20 years in jail or under house arrest since the country's last elections in 1990, which her National League for Democracy (NLD) won by a landslide.
Myanmar's ruling junta then prevented the party from taking power.
"If they reject it, there is a special appeal... We will go for it again," Suu Kyi's lawyer and NLD spokesman Nyan Win told AFP as he was on his way to court for the ruling.
Suu Kyi has previously dismissed comments by Home Affairs Minister Maung Oo, who reportedly said she would be released in November, as "unfair" ahead of any court decision.
Junta chief Than Shwe has promised to hold elections at some point this year under his "roadmap to democracy" but has refused so far to set a date and critics say the polls are aimed at simply entrenching the generals' power.
Suu Kyi is effectively barred from standing in the promised vote and a quarter of the parliamentary seats up for grabs are reserved for the military.
She has said it is too early for her party to decide whether to participate in the elections while freedom of expression remains elusive.
At least 2,100 other political prisoners remain behind bars in Myanmar, according to UN figures.
Friday's ruling comes a week after UN human rights envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana visited the country, saying as he departed that he "deeply regretted" being refused access to Suu Kyi during his five-day trip.
Myanmar's government has given out mixed signals ahead of the polls, in mid-February releasing deputy NLD leader Tin Oo after seven years, but days later jailing a US activist for three years.
The regime jailed a further five dissidents during the visit by the UN special rapporteur.
Suu Kyi herself has made efforts to defrost relations with the military leaders, writing twice to Than Shwe since September to offer help in getting Western economic sanctions lifted and asking to meet with him.
The government's official liaison officer met with Suu Kyi in January -- the fourth meeting since last September as both sides tentatively renew dialogue.
Last November the authorities allowed her to make a rare appearance in front of the media after she held talks with US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, the most senior Washington official to visit Myanmar for 14 years.
The administration of US President Barack Obama has been pursuing greater engagement with the Myanmar regime after deciding that sanctions alone were not working.
Myanmar has been ruled by the military since 1962.