- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 17, 2009

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) | Myanmar’s military rulers disbarred a prominent lawyer who applied to defend pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in her upcoming trial, the attorney said Saturday.

Mrs. Suu Kyi, who was taken from her home Thursday by police, faces a possible five-year prison term for purportedly violating terms of her house arrest by sheltering an American man who swam across a lake to her home.

Her latest arrest has sparked a storm of international appeals to Myanmar’s junta to free the 63-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner and to restore democracy in the country, which has been under military rule since 1962.

Despite mounting international protests, the junta appears ready to begin the trial Monday at Insein Prison, where Mrs. Suu Kyi is being held along with two assistants who have lived with her.

Lawyer Aung Thein said Saturday he was dismissed from the country’s Bar Council on Friday, a day after he applied to represent Mrs. Suu Kyi. He has defended political activists in the past and was earlier jailed for four months for contempt of court.

Mrs. Suu Kyi was charged Thursday with violating the terms of her house arrest after being visited by American John William Yettaw, 53, who also faces trial.

Mrs. Suu Kyi has already spent 13 of the last 19 years in detention without trial for her nonviolent promotion of democracy. She had been scheduled to be freed May 27 after six consecutive years of house arrest but now faces up to five years in prison if convicted, according to one of her attorneys, Hla Myo Myint.

He and another attorney represented her at her arraignment, but Mrs. Suu Kyi had asked for three other defense attorneys, including Mr. Aung Thein.

President Obama extended for another year a state of emergency regarding Myanmar that maintains sanctions against the military-run country.

In a message to the U.S. Congress sent Friday, Mr. Obama said that a “crisis” between the United States and Myanmar “has not been resolved.”

The Norwegian committee that propelled Mrs. Suu Kyi into the world spotlight by awarding her the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 called for her immediate release.

The charges are widely seen as a pretext for the ruling junta to keep Mrs. Suu Kyi detained past the elections it has scheduled for next year as the culmination of a “road map to democracy,” which has been criticized as a fig leaf for continued military control.

Exactly why Mr. Yettaw, of Falcon, Mo., swam across the lake to see Mrs. Suu Kyi is not clear. His wife, Betty Yettaw, described him as eccentric but peace-loving and “not political at all.”

According to his ex-wife Yvonne Yettaw, he said he went to Asia to work on a psychology paper about forgiveness. While in Thailand, “Myanmar caught his attention,” she said.

She said Mr. Yettaw suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and a head wound during his military service as a “very young” man. She said he was a Vietnam War-era veteran but probably did not serve in Vietnam itself.

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