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Myanmar's Suu Kyi Found Guilty In Security Case

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon in January 2008

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon in January 2008

YANGON (Reuters) -- A court in army-ruled Myanmar has found opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi guilty of violating an internal security law, a ruling certain to anger the West and further isolate the regime.

The court sentenced the Nobel peace laureate to three years in prison but that was immediately reduced to 18 months on the orders of the military government, which said she could serve the time in her Yangon home.

A guilty verdict had been widely expected in a case critics say was fabricated by the military regime to keep Suu Kyi out of circulation ahead of a general election.

The leader of the democracy movement in the former Burma has already spent 14 of the past 20 years in detention of one sort or another.

The charges stemmed from a mysterious incident in which an American, John Yettaw, swam uninvited to her lakeside home in May and stayed there for two days, which breached the terms of her house arrest.

Yettaw was sentenced to seven years' hard labor in a parallel trial on three charges, including immigration offenses and "swimming in a no-swimming area."

The hearings were held in Yangon's Insein Prison amid heightened security, with least 2,000 security personnel in the area, witnesses said.

State newspapers all ran the same commentary on August 11 that implicitly warned Suu Kyi's supporters not to cause trouble and told outsiders not to meddle in Myanmar's affairs.

"The people who favor democracy do not want to see riots and protests that can harm their goal," said the commentary in the "New Light of Myanmar" and other newspapers.

"Antigovernment groups inside and outside the nation and the United States are accusing the government of deterring Aung San Suu Kyi from standing for election," it added.

"The approved constitution and the forthcoming election law will decide who will be entitled and who will not be entitled to stand for election."

Critics say the trial has been trumped up by the military government as a way of keeping Suu Kyi out of circulation in the run-up to, and during, a multiparty election planned for 2010.

The prosecution's case was that Yettaw's two-day stay at Suu Kyi's home, even though he was uninvited, meant she breached the terms of her house arrest and violated an internal security law.

A verdict in the trial had been expected on August 4, but the judge adjourned the case until August 11 after Yettaw fell ill.

However, he was moved back to his prison cell shortly before midnight on August 10, a hospital source said.

Yettaw, a Mormon, has told the court God sent him to warn Suu Kyi she would be assassinated by "terrorists."