Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi told a court on Tuesday that she didn’t think she violated the terms of her house arrest when she gave “temporary shelter’’ to a surprise visitor earlier this month.
Appearing frail and pale but managing an occasional smile, Suu Kyi was questioned for less than 30 minutes about 53-year-old American John W. Yettaw, who swam uninvited to her lakeside house and stayed for two days.
The 63-year-old Nobel Peace laureate faces a possible prison term of up to five years in a trial that has brought worldwide outrage. Her testimony is scheduled to continue today.
Suu Kyi received qualified good news, however, as the junta lifted her current house arrest on Tuesday a day before it was due to expire. But she remains in detention while her trial on charges of breaking the terms of that order continues.
“The house arrest has been lifted, but she is still under detention,” Nyan Win, one of her lawyers, said after Tuesday’s session inside Insein Prison. “I don’t know whether to be happy or sorry.”
Reporters and diplomats were allowed into the courtroom for Tuesday’s session, the second time during the trial that such rare access has been granted.
“Thank you for your concern and support,” Suu Kyi said after being escorted out of the court. “It is always good to see people from the outside world.”
Suu Kyi’s lawyers have said that she did not invite Yettaw and asked him to leave, but allowed him to stay when he said he was too ill to leave immediately.
Suu Kyi told the judge that Yettaw, who was also in the court, arrived at her home around 5 a.m. on May 4. One of her companions told her about his arrival.
When asked if she reported his presence to the authorities, Suu Kyi said, “No, I did not.’’ She said she spoke to Yettaw and gave him “temporary shelter,’’ and he left before midnight on May 5.
Asian and European foreign ministers meeting in Hanoi “called for the early release of those under detention” in Burma “and the lifting of restrictions placed on political parties.”
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said that the ministers’ communique went beyond anything previously endorsed by China or Vietnam. “It’s a substantial increase on the political pressure on the regime,” he said.