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Obama Calls For Release Of Aung San Suu Kyi

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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama called on Myanmar's government Tuesday to immediately free Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize-winner detained under house arrest since 2003.

Suu Kyi is currently on trial in her country, accused of violating her detention by allowing an uninvited American to stay at her home. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges but faces five years in prison if convicted.

In a statement Tuesday, Obama condemned Suu Kyi's house arrest and detention. He called on the government of Myanmar, also known as Burma, to release her immediately and unconditionally as a sign of respect for its laws and its people.

"Aung San Suu Kyi's continued detention, isolation, and show trial based on spurious charges cast serious doubt on the Burmese regime's willingness to be a responsible member of the international community," Obama said. "This is an important opportunity for the government in Burma to demonstrate that it respects its own laws and its own people, is ready to work with the National League for Democracy and other ethnic and opposition groups, and is prepared to move toward reconciliation."

Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party won national elections in 1990, but Myanmar's military junta refused to relinquish power. She has spent 13 of the past 19 years in detention without trial for her nonviolent promotion of democracy.

Her latest round of house arrest was to expire this week.

Obama noted that Suu Kyi's detention has also been condemned worldwide.

"By her actions, Aung San Suu Kyi has represented profound patriotism, sacrifice, and the vision of a democratic and prosperous Burma. It is time for the Burmese government to drop all charges against Aung San Suu Kyi and unconditionally release her and her fellow political prisoners," the president said. "Such an action would be an affirmative and significant step on Burma's part to begin to restore its standing in the eyes of the United States and the world community and to move toward a better future for its people."

The 63-year-old Nobel laureate testified Tuesday in her defense, insisting that she did not break the law by allowing John W. Yettaw, 53, of Falcon, Mo., to stay at her home for two days after he swam across a lake to enter her house uninvited earlier this month. She said security forces were responsible for keeping intruders away from her home. Yettaw has pleaded not guilty to the same charge.

The charges against Suu Kyi are widely considered a pretext to keep her detained ahead of elections planned for next year.

Earlier this month, Obama extended for another year a state of emergency regarding Myanmar, keeping in place tough sanctions against the country.