Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Aung San Suu Kyi Cited In Contempt of Court for Sneezing

RANGOON, MYANMAR -- Pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to an additional year of house arrest Tuesday for sneezing during her sentencing.

Suu Kyi had received three years of hard labor for an unusual incident in which an American, John Yettaw, swam across a lake to her villa. She allowed Yettaw to spend a couple days at her house after he claimed exhaustion. The military junta found her guilty of violating her house arrest, even though she did not at any point actually leave her house.

Perhaps anticipating the vociferous criticism such a sentence would evoke, the leader of the military junta reduced Aung San Suu Kyi's sentence to 18 months and changed it to house arrest. But during the reading of the reduced sentence, Suu Kyi sneezed, causing the judge to declare her in contempt of the court.

Suu Kyi's lawyers tried to claim that she had gotten a cold after living in less-than-ideal conditions in prison for the past three months, but they were ruled out of order.

She has been been under house arrest for 14 of the past 20 years. Her crimes include winning a 1990 election for prime minister.

The Burmese government issued a statement in defense of the additional year of house arrest. "Contrary to claims that this is a 'koala court' Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi received a full and fair trial," the release said, apparently confusing the koala with Australia's other well-known marsupial animal, the kangaroo. "Such an obvious display of contempt could have qualified her for five year's of hard labor so the court displayed extraordinary generosity by only giving her one year in the luxury of her house."

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