Detention appeal by Suu Kyi rejected

 

Burma’s Supreme Court yesterday rejected an appeal by pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi against her house arrest, a ruling which diplomats said would cast further doubt on the legitimacy of elections planned for later this year.

Ms Suu Kyi, detained for 15 of the past 21 years, was sentenced to a further 18 months of house arrest in August for allowing an uninvited American to stay in her lakeside home after he swam over to see her.

“The judge turned it down. He read out the decision, but he didn’t offer any reason for the rejection,” her lawyer Nyan Win told reporters, who were barred from the courtroom.

Mr Win said he planned to lodge an appeal against the decision with Burma’s chief justice, the one remaining channel for Ms Suu Kyi to seek her freedom.

The verdict was widely expected by diplomats and activists, many of whom believe Burma’s judicial system is beset by interference from the military, which has ruled Burma for almost half a century.

Home minister Maj Gen Maung Oo said on January 21st the 64-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner would be released in November when her house arrest term expired, a comment Ms Suu Kyi said was in contempt of court because her appeal had not been heard at that point.

Diplomats have said the coming election will not be credible unless Ms Suu Kyi and other political prisoners are released.

The election, a date for which has yet to be set, has been widely derided as an attempt by the junta to make the country appear democratic, with the military pulling the strings behind a civilian-fronted government.

Ms Suu Kyi was found guilty of breaching a draconian law protecting the state from “subversive elements” and initially sentenced to three years in prison, immediately commuted to 18 months of house arrest by the junta in recognition of her late father, independence hero Aung San.

Critics have dismissed the case as a sham – a move by the junta to keep the charismatic leader sidelined for the election.