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Suu Kyi's appeal against conviction rejected

A court in military-ruled Myanmar turned aside opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's latest bid for freedom, rejecting an appeal against her most recent sentence of house arrest, government sources said.

world Updated: Oct 02, 2009 11:36 IST

A court in military-ruled Myanmar turned aside opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's latest bid for freedom on Friday, rejecting an appeal against her most recent sentence of house arrest, government sources said.

Suu Kyi was convicted and sentenced in August for sheltering an uninvited American at her home for two days earlier this year, in a verdict that drew international condemnation and ensured that she would not be able to participate in elections scheduled for next year.

She argued in an appeal that the conviction was unwarranted, but the Yangon Division court ruled against the appeal Friday, said the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

Already in detention for about 14 of the last 20 years, the Nobel Peace Prize winner was sentenced in August to another 18 months for sheltering the American, John Yettaw.

He has said he wanted to warn Suu Kyi he had a "vision" that she would be assassinated. He was sentenced to seven years in prison but released on humanitarian grounds and deported less than a week after the verdict.

Suu Kyi's lawyer Nyan Win said ahead of Friday's ruling that the defense would take the case to the Supreme Court if her appeal is rejected.

"We have made all necessary plans for any outcome," Nyan win said. Security was tight Friday, with riot police ringing the court house.

In the appeal, Suu Kyi's lawyers raised no new substantive arguments that had not been heard in the original district court trial.

Myanmar's courts almost always follow the same hard line toward Suu Kyi and the country's democracy movement, which the military government often accuses of collaborating with the country's enemies to destroy the nation.

But Friday's ruling came amid a tentative change in the political winds, after the United States announced last week it was modifying its tough policy of seeking only to isolate the military regime and would instead try to engage it through high-level talks.

The US will not give up its political and economic sanctions against the regime. It and other Western nations apply sanctions because of Myanmar's poor human rights record and its failure to turn over power to Suu Kyi's party.

US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, the top US diplomat for East Asia, told the Senate Foreign Relations Asia subcommittee Wednesday that lifting sanctions as the administration tries to start a dialogue, without Myanmar making any democratic changes, would be a mistake.

At the same time, the 64-year-old Suu Kyi has made what appears to be a confidence-building gesture toward the junta, suggesting last week in a letter to leader Senior Gen. Than Shwe she was willing to cooperate with it to have the sanctions lifted, according to a statement from her National League for Democracy party. She had previously welcomed sanctions as a way to pressure the junta to achieve political reconciliation with the pro-democracy movement. The movement has insisted on concessions from the government if they are to work together, particularly the freeing of political prisoners and the reopening of party offices around the country.

Suu Kyi was convicted August 11 and sentenced to three years in prison with hard labor after Yettaw secretly swam to her home. The sentence was commuted to 18 months of house arrest by Than Shwe. Suu Kyi has described the conviction as unfair. Authorities would not let her attend the appeal hearing.

The appeal contended that the law under which she was charged is invalid because it applies to a constitution abolished two decades ago.