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Burma’s Supreme Court has refused democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi’s appeal against her house arrest, an official said Thursday, but hopes for her imminent freedom remained.
Suu Kyi’s lawyers expect the Nobel peace laureate to be released Saturday – days after a rare election in which the junta’s proxies claimed a landslide win – but they had hoped she would also be acquitted to prove her innocence.
“The Supreme Court was led by the chief justice. He confirmed the sentence,” a Burma official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Suu Kyi’s detention was extended by 18 months in August last year over a bizarre incident in which an American swam uninvited to her lakeside home, where she is under house arrest, keeping her off the scene for the election.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner has spent most of the past 20 years locked up after she swept her National League for Democracy (NLD) to a landslide win in the last poll, but Burma’s generals never allowed her to take power.
Officials said Wednesday that preparations for Suu Kyi’s expected release were under way, yet some fear the military regime may still find a reason to extend her sentence.
Her lawyer Nyan Win said Wednesday she would hold a news conference at her party’s headquarters if freed, suggesting she is likely to resist any attempt by the authorities to restrict her political activities.
He said the appeal against the house arrest sentence was only to argue her innocence and should not affect moves to free her.
“It’s not important whether the acquittal coincides with her release date,” he said.
The daughter of Burma’s liberation hero General Aung San remains hugely popular in a country that has suffered under military rule for nearly half a century.
When the 65-year-old was last released in 2002 she drew huge crowds wherever she went.
Suu Kyi’s absence from this election and the decision by the NLD to boycott the vote – leading to its dissolution by law – left Burma’s opposition weakened and deeply split.
Her likely release is seen by observers as an effort by the regime to deflect criticism of Sunday’s poll – widely dismissed by the West as a sham, with Suu Kyi sidelined.
Early results from the election suggest the junta-backed party has all but crushed its political rivals, amid opposition complaints of cheating and voter intimidation.