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Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese opposition leader and Nobel Prize winner who has spent much of the last 19 years in jail or detention over her political activities, will remain under house arrest after a court in Rangoon found her guilty of violating the terms of her confinement.
In a show of supposed clemency, the leader of Burma's military government commuted the sentence from an initial term of 3 years, a hollow gesture since she should never have been charged and tried in the first place. An incident that began as a comedy of errors now ends as a travesty of justice.
Aung San Suu Kyi, 64-years old, has been imprisoned since May when an American tourist, John Yettaw, swam uninvited to her lakeside house where she was under guard. He stayed there two days, and he too was convicted of charges stemming from the incident and sentenced to 7 years in prison for immigration and other violations.
Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won national elections in 1990, but the military never allowed it to govern. At the time of Yettaw’s intrusion, her period of detention was nearing expiration, but the new sentence of house arrest imposed by Burmese authorities extends beyond the expected 2010 parliamentary elections.
The United States joins with others in the international community to express its deep concern over the Burmese government's action. As President Obama said in a written statement: “The conviction and sentencing of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi ... violate universal principles of human rights ... [This] unjust decision reminds us of the thousands of other political prisoners in Burma who, like Aung San Suu Kyi, have been denied their liberty because of their pursuit of a government that respects the will, rights, and aspirations of all Burmese citizens. They, too, should be freed. I call on the Burmese regime to heed the views of its own people and the international community and to work towards genuine national reconciliation.”