Obama Calls for Release of Aung San Suu Kyi
By Glenn Kessler
Making his first statement on the trial of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, President Obama issued a stern statement late Tuesday calling on the Burmese government to release her "immediately and unconditionally."
Burma's military government on Tuesday announced that it officially ended the six-year house arrest of Suu Kyi, the opposition leader and democracy advocate, but she remains in prison while awaiting the outcome of her trial for breach of the terms of her detention. Suu Kyi, who is accused of allowing a U.S. citizen who swam to her lakeside house to spend the night there, took the stand Tuesday and denied the charges against her. She said she gave only "temporary shelter" to John W. Yettaw, 53, of Falcon, Mo.; she faces a term of possibly three to five years.
Obama, in his statement, strongly condemned her most arrest and detention, saying it was "arbitrary, unjustified, and in contravention of Burma's own law." Suu Kyi has spent 13 of the last 19 years under detention, ever since her party won a landslide victory that the military never accepted.
The Obama administration has been conducting a high-profile review of policy toward Burma, including the effectiveness of sanctions. But the sudden trial of Suu Kyi, just as her detention was set to end, has instead inspired calls for increased sanctions.
"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," Obama said, adding the government had "an important opportunity... to demonstrate that it respects its own laws and its own people."
One of Suu Kyi's lawyers had to deal with another possible legal entanglement Tuesday -- a lawsuit filed by Suu Kyi's estranged brother seeking ownership of her home, left to her by their mother. If the court rules against Suu Kyi and takes away her home, then the government could claim that she can no longer serve in home detention and must remain in prison.
Posted at 6:41 PM ET on May 26, 2009
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