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‘I didn’t violate house arrest’

world Updated: May 26, 2009 23:47 IST
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Myanmar pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi told her trial on Tuesday that she did not violate her house arrest, saying she only offered temporary shelter to a US man who swam to her lakeside home.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner was testifying for the first time at the maximum security Insein Prison in Yangon, in a case which has drawn widespread international condemnation of the country’s iron-fisted military junta.

“I didn’t,” the 63-year-old replied when a judge asked her whether she had breached the restriction order keeping her at her residence, according to reporters and diplomats present at the hearing.

The long-standing figurehead of Myanmar’s peaceful opposition movement, Aung San Suu Kyi faces up to five years in jail if convicted. She has been under house arrest or in jail for 13 of the last 19 years.

She said the first she knew of the bizarre visit by American army veteran John Yettaw was when her assistant woke her up at around dawn on May 4 to tell her that a man had arrived the house.

“I did not inform them,” she said when asked by the judge whether she had told Myanmar’s military authorities about the intrusion.

Aung San Suu Kyi was also asked about claims that she had given Yettaw food and let him stay at the house, replying: “I allowed him to have temporary shelter.”

The opposition leader said Yettaw left at 11:45 pm on May 5, adding: “I only knew that he went to the lakeside. I did not know which way he went because it was dark.”

The junta is also trying Yettaw and two female aides who live with Aung San Suu Kyi in her house. Yettaw has said he swam across a lake to the house to warn her of a vision he had that she would be assassinated.

In a rare concession by the ruling generals, diplomats and some Myanmar journalists were allowed inside the notorious proceedings to see Aung San Suu Kyi testify.

Critics accuse Myanmar’s junta of trumping up the charges in a bid to keep Aung San Suu Kyi locked up during elections due in 2010. Her party won the country's last elections, in 1990, but was never allowed to take power.

Defying international outrage, a top policeman said the regime could extend her house arrest by six months, despite her lawyers’ claims that her current six-year spell in detention ends on Wednesday.

Brigadier General Myint Thein told the reporters and diplomats that authorities had considered freeing her but that the situation had “regretfully” changed since the incident involving Yettaw.