BANGKOK (RPRN) 8/12/2009–Lawyers for Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi say they will immediately file an appeal on her conviction for violating the terms of her house arrest. The Nobel Peace laureate was sentenced Tuesday to three years in prison for violating the terms of her house arrest, when she allowed American John Yettaw to stay at her lakeside Rangoon home when he swam there uninvited in May.
But the country’s leader, General Than Shwe, commuted the sentence to 18 months of house arrest.
The sentence sparked an outpouring of angry criticism from many world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
But China’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement Wednesday saying the world community should respect the military government’s “judicial soveregnity.”
The statement says that dialogue and negotiations are the surest path for Burma to achieve democracy, development and stability.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) expressed its “deep disappointment” over the sentence in a statement issued Wednesday. The 10-nation regional bloc, of which Burma is a member, has been reluctant to put any pressure on the junta, citing its long-standing policy of not interfering in its members’ internal affairs.
But Thailand, ASEAN’s current chair, repeated a call made just last month at a ministerial meeting for Burma to release all of its political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi.
The 64-year-old democracy icon has already spent 14 of the past 20 years in detention, mostly under house arrest.
Critics say the trial was an attempt by the ruling generals to keep Aung San Suu Kyi from taking part in next year’s elections.
Meanwhile, a lawyer for John Yettaw says his client will appeal his sentence of seven years in prison with hard labor. He swam to Aung San Suu Kyi’s home, saying he had received a message from God to warn the opposition leader about what he called a terrorist plot to assassinate her.
Two female associates of Aung San Suu Kyi who live with her at her lakeside villa also had their court-imposed sentences reduced to 18 months.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.
Photo credit: courtesy of dassk.org