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Suu Kyi verdict blow to election

world Updated: Aug 11, 2009 23:57 IST

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A court in army-ruled Myanmar on Tuesday sentenced opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to 18 months in detention, a verdict that drew condemnation abroad and will keep her off the political stage ahead of next year’s elections.

The court handed down a three-year prison term for violation of an internal security law. But that was immediately halved on the orders of the military government, which said the 64-year-old Nobel peace laureate could serve the time in her Yangon home.

Myanmar’s home minister, Major-General Muang Oo, told the court moments after the verdict it had taken into account that Suu Kyi was the daughter of Myanmar independence hero Aung San as well as “the need to preserve community peace and tranquility” as the country prepares for elections next year.

The verdict drew criticism from leaders around the world. Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown called it “monstrous”. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said it was "brutal and unjust".

The 27-country European Union is preparing sanctions against Myanmar that include restricting trade with state-owned firms and barring top junta officials from entering the bloc, Sweden said.

UN diplomats said it was likely the Security Council would meet later on Tuesday to discuss the verdict.

Myanmar authorities should begin an immediate dialogue with the opposition, US Secretary of Sate Hillary Clinton told reporters on her trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo. “Otherwise the elections they have scheduled will have absolutely no legitimacy.”

Critics say the case was fabricated to keep Suu Kyi out of circulation ahead of the polls.

The charges stemmed from a mysterious incident in which an American, John Yettaw, swam to her lakeside home in May and stayed there uninvited for two days.