Myanmar

By Aung Hla Tun

YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi faced trial on Thursday on charges of violating the terms of her house arrest after a mysterious American man swam to her lakeside compound this month, her lawyer said.

The Nobel Peace laureate, whose latest six-year detention is due to expire on May 27, could be imprisoned for up to five years if convicted under the military regime's tough security laws, Kyi Win said.

"Special Branch officials told me Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her two companions will be indicted," Kyi Win told Reuters.

Activists denounced the trial in Yangon's Insein Prison, where Suu Kyi and her two female companions were moved on Thursday, as a ploy to keep her out of the way ahead of the junta's promised elections in 2010.

The 63-year-old Suu Kyi, treated for low blood pressure and dehydration last week, has spent 13 of the past 19 years under some form of detention. Her latest spell began in May 2003.

Kyi Win said she would probably be charged under Section 22 of the Law Safeguarding the State from the Dangers of Subversive Elements. The law carries a 3-to-5-year jail term "if a person put under house arrest under Section 10 (B) of this Law violates the restrictions imposed on them."

The charges apparently stem from a bizarre incident involving U.S. citizen John Yettaw, who claimed to have swum across Inya Lake and spent two days in Suu Kyi's compound earlier this month.

His May 6 arrest was reported by state media last week. U.S. embassy officials were allowed to meet Yettaw on Wednesday, but have not commented.

Kyi Win said Yettaw tried to meet Suu Kyi last year, but was told to leave and the incident reported to authorities. This time, Suu Kyi again told him to leave but he refused, Kyi Win said.

"He said he was so tired and wanted to rest, but she pleaded with him. Then he slept overnight on the ground floor," Kyi Win told the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) after he was allowed to meet Suu Kyi on Wednesday.

DETENTION

He said Suu Kyi's health was improving after she was treated for low blood pressure and dehydration last week.

"She looks okay. She has a very strong spirit," Kyi Win said.

The United States and human rights groups have demanded Suu Kyi be allowed to see her main doctor, Tin Myo Win, detained for questioning last week.

U.N. legal experts have said her confinement was illegal under Myanmar law, which permits detention of five consecutive years before the accused must be freed or put on trial.

Suu Kyi launched a legal appeal after her detention was extended last year in an apparent violation of the law. The junta said it could hold her for a sixth year and denied the appeal.

"The regime filed these charges to extend her detention beyond the six years," said Aung Din, executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Burma, a pro-democracy group.

"It is an act of blackmailing the international community, especially the United States, demanding a ransom to get back an American citizen and better treatment for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi," he said.

The U.S. Campaign for Burma said Yettaw and physician Tin Myo Win would also appear in court. The doctor was arrested on May 7, the day after Yettaw.

That could not be confirmed, but lawyer Kyi Win said: "I wouldn't be surprised if Dr. Tin Myo Win and the American were included at the court today."

The generals have ignored international calls for Suu Kyi's release as they push ahead with a seven-step "roadmap to democracy" expected to culminate in multi-party elections in 2010.

The NLD and Western governments dismiss the "roadmap" and last year's army-drafted constitution as a cover for the generals to cement their grip on power.

(Reporting by Aung Hla Tun; Writing by Darren Schuettler; Editing by Alan Raybould and Jerry Norton)

Article Published: 14/05/2009