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Freedom Now: Move of Gen. Than Shwe a Clear Violation of Burmese and International Law

August 11, 2009

Freedom Now

Washington, D.C. – Today, Freedom Now (whose mission it is to free prisoners of conscience through focused legal, political, and public relations advocacy efforts) deplores the sentencing of the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi. Following a closed trial widely perceived by the international community as a sham, the Burmese junta has sentenced Ms. Suu Kyi to three-years imprisonment with hard labor under its State Protection Law, which it commuted to 18 months under house arrest after an internationally dramatic five-minute pause in the proceedings. Ms. Suu Kyi has spent some 14 of the last 20 years under house arrest. Immediately upon announcement of the conviction and sentence, Freedom Now submitted a petition to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention under its “urgent action” process. On five prior occasions, this tribunal has found that Ms. Suu Kyi’s various terms of house arrest were in contravention of international law, and in the most recent decision, in violation of Burmese law as well.

“The Burmese junta’s extension of Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention in clear violation of their own laws comes as no surprise,” said Jared Genser, international counsel for Ms. Suu Kyi. “For over 40 years, the junta has shown little regard for Burmese or international law. The junta remains deeply concerned about Ms. Suu Kyi’s popular appeal, especially leading up to the 2010 ‘election’ that it hopes will legitimize the regime.” Mr. Genser added: “The outcome of this trial has never been in doubt. The real question is how the international community will react – will it do more than simply condemn this latest injustice?”

Also convicted were Khin Khin Win and Win Ma Ma, the women who live with Ms. Suu Kyi. The three were convicted of violating the terms of Ms. Suu Kyi’s house arrest by inviting American John Yettaw to her home. Yet the three women never invited Mr. Yettaw to visit, and in fact, asked him to leave as soon as his break-in was discovered. More importantly, the junta held exclusive responsibility to provide security at Ms. Suu Kyi’s home.

In addition to the pretextual charge under a law itself that became invalid when Burma’s 1974 Constitution was annulled in 1988, the trial suffered from deep procedural flaws that render the verdict patently invalid. Among them: Ms. Suu Kyi’s lawyers were given only three days for trial preparation and were never able to meet with her alone; one of Ms. Suu Kyi’s lawyers was disbarred two days before the trial, denying choice of counsel; the trial was mostly closed; all but two of the defense’s proposed witnesses were disqualified; and the judges were neither independent from the junta nor impartial.

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