Obama calls for Suu Kyi’s release


Washington: US President Barack Obama called on Myanmar’s ruling junta to immediately release human rights activist Aung San Suu Kyi, who received an additional 18 months of detainment Tuesday for allegedly violating the terms of her house arrest.

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Obama issued a statement saying the conviction and sentencing “unjust” and a violation of human rights. The trial that handed Suu Kyi, 64, another 18 months of house arrest and effectively sidelined her for the upcoming elections has drawn worldwide condemnation.

“I join the international community in calling for Aung San Suu Kyi’s immediate unconditional release,” Obama said.

US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said he was premature to conclude whether the US will pursue additional sanctions on the UN Security Council. Myanmar’s rulers have already been sanctioned by the US, United Nations and the European Union.

“We’ll be comparing notes about the implications of this case and what the consequences will be,” Crowley said.

A special court set up in Insein Prison found the Nobel Peace winner guilty of breaking the terms of her detention by allowing a US national to swim into her lakeside compound May 3.

The American who sparked the controversy, John William Yettaw, received a seven-year jail. Obama said Yettaw’s sentence was “punishment out of proportion with his actions”.

Myanmar’s leading democratic activist, Suu Kyi has spent 14 of the past 20 years under detention. Her sentence was due to end May 27 but Yettaw’s intrusion allowed Myanmar’s rulers to extend her term.

The military regime running Myanmar has scheduled elections for next year that have already been criticised for ensuring a favourable outcome.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won national elections in 1990 but has been barred from taking power since.