A Burmese military court pronounced pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi guilty of violating terms of her house arrest Tuesday and extended her detention period by an additional 18 months. The verdict drew immediate condemnation from world leaders, human rights advocates and Nobel peace laureates.
British Prime Minister Grodon Brown blasted the entire procedure as a “sham trial” and said “the U.N. Security Council — whose will has been flouted — must also now respond resolutely and impose a world wide ban on the sale of arms to the regime.”
The United Nations, White House, the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu all also publicly condemned the trial.
The guilty conviction surprised few. The Myanmar government levied charges against the Nobel peace laureate for housing an American man who swam to her family compound. (The American, John Yettaw, was also put on trial and sentenced to seven years.)
Suu Kyi has been under house arrest 14 of the last 19 years, and it is widely suspected the trial was used as a means to prevent her from participating in next year’s elections. Suu Kyi’s party won 1990 elections the military subsequently annulled – and the junta has sought to keep Suu Kyi silent ever since.
In an apparent attempt to stage-manage world reaction, the court initially sentenced Suu Kyi to a three-year jail term with hard labor but announced a reduction in the sentence after a small recess. The reduced sentence was delivered via special order by Gen. Than Shwe, the leader of the junta.
The ploy was ill-received.
“This trial was a farce, a brutal distortion of the legal process. By silencing prominent opponents through bogus trials, the generals are clearly showing why the elections they have been touting for next year won’t bring change,” Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch’s Asia director said in a statement.