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Myanmar court hears Suu Kyi appeal of house arrest

Lawyers for opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said Monday they were optimistic Myanmar's highest court would overturn an extension of her house arrest imposed after an American intruder swam uninvited to her home.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Lawyers for opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said Monday they were optimistic Myanmar's highest court would overturn an extension of her house arrest imposed after an American intruder swam uninvited to her home.

The court began hearing from both sides in the case Monday and was expected to issue a ruling within a month. Suu Kyi, who was barred from attending the session, has been detained for 14 of the past 20 years.

The 64-year-old Nobel Peace Laureate's sentence would ensure she cannot participate in Myanmar's first elections in two decades that will be held sometime this year. Her party swept the last elections in 1990, but the results were never honored by the military, which has ruled the country since 1962.

Suu Kyi's lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court in November last year after a lower court upheld a decision to sentence her to an additional 18 months of house arrest. She was convicted in August of violating the terms of her previous detention by briefly sheltering an American who swam to her lakeside home.

Suu Kyi's lawyer Nyan Win told judges the extension was unlawful because it was based on provisions from the 1974 Constitution that are no longer in effect.

The court also agreed to review the house arrest of Suu Kyi's two female companions, who are also ordered confined for 18 months at her compound in Yangon.

"We are very optimistic. The law is completely on our side," Suu Kyi's lawyer, Kyi Win, told reporters waiting outside the court. Kyi Win said the ruling would be announced in a month, correcting another lawyer's assertion it would be handed down this week.

But Aung Thein, a lawyer experienced in political cases, cautioned that he didn't think the Supreme Court would overturn the lower court rulings. "Executive power supersedes the Supreme Court," he said.

British Ambassador Andrew Heyn, who attended the Supreme Court hearing, said his government fully supported Suu Kyi's appeal.

"Our position remains that Suu Kyi's house arrest and the detention of all political prisoners is unjust and we call again on the government to release her and all political detainees without condition," Heyn said.

On Friday, Suu Kyi met with Cabinet minister Aung Kyi, part of her National League for Democracy party's efforts to prepare for the elections. Suu Kyi's party has not yet declared whether it will take part in the election.

Suu Kyi's last meeting with Aung Kyi was on Dec. 9, when he informed her that her request to be allowed to meet with the party elders was granted. She met them on Dec. 16.

(This version CORRECTS the date of the last appeal to November, not last month.)