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Suu Kyi's uninvited guest
American John Yettaw's visit may have been motivated by visions of her assassination.
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2009 02:12 GMT
Aung San Suu Kyi's lawyers have said she cannot be held responsible for Yettaw's actions [EPA]

The strange case of American John Yettaw has engulfed Aung San Suu Kyi in a legal mess that threatens to see Myanmar's opposition leader spend several more years in detention.

Yettaw apparently evaded security on two occasions to visit the home of the detained Nobel Peace laureate.

It was after he attempted to return from the second visit on May 3, swimming across Yangon's Inya lake, that he was apprehended by police.

As a result both he and Aung San Suu Kyi have been put on trial accused of breaking the terms of her house arrest.

"Everyone is very angry with this wretched American... He is the cause of all these problems. He's a fool."

Kyi Win, lawyer for Aung San Suu Kyi

According to defence lawyers, Yettaw has told the trial he was "sent by God" to make the nighttime swim and sneak into her compound.

Reports from the court inside Yangon's Insein jail quoted exchanges between Yettaw and his lawyers in which he indicated that his visit was motivated by a vision that Aung San Suu Kyi was in danger of assassination.

The opposition leader has been held in her crumbling lakeside villa for 13 of the past 19 years.

She has not been seen in public for many months, her mail is intercepted and she is allowed only a few carefully vetted visitors.

Uninvited and unwelcome

Now her supporters fear that Yettaw's uninvited and unwelcome visit may land her with up to five years inside Yangon's Insein prison, keeping her out of sight well beyond national elections the military has scheduled for next year.

Yettaw swam across Yangon's Inya lake to get to Aung San Suu Kyi's home [AFP]
"Everyone is very angry with this wretched American," Kyi Win, one of Aung San Suu Kyi's lawyers, told reporters as the trial began.

"He is the cause of all these problems. He's a fool."

According to Yettaw's family though, the 53-year-old Vietnam war veteran is merely a well-meaning admirer who wanted to interview her, unaware of the possible consequences.

During his first visit he failed to make contact and it was only on his second attempt that he was able to meet Aung San Suu Kyi.

One of the many unanswered questions about the case is why Yettaw's first visit was not detected by authorities.

According to Aung San Suu Kyi's lawyers, it was on the second visit, that she stumbled across her uninvited guest.

She initially told him to leave, her lawyers say, and it was only after he pleaded that he was too unwell to swim back across the lake that she allowed him to stay.

'Well-meaning'

Speaking to reporters from her home in Missouri, Yettaw's wife, Betty, said her husband wanted to talk to Aung San Suu Kyi as part of his research for a thesis on forgiveness and resilience.

"He's a very peace-loving person, well-meaning, forgiving, mild-mannered. He meant the very best for her," she told The Associated Press in May as her husband's trial began.

The American apparently had homemade flippers and floatation aids [Reuters]
She said he had been "somewhat troubled" due to several tragedies in his life, including the death of a teenage son several years ago.

According to police, Yettaw seems to have been well prepared for his visit, equipped with floatation aids and homemade flippers for his swim across the lake, and carrying a video camera.

On Thursday the court was shown a two-hour video apparently shot by Yettaw inside Aung San Suu Kyi's home, Nyan Win, a member of her legal team, told reporters.

The footage showed several scenes including a portrait of General Aung San, the Myanmar independence leader and father of Aung San Suu Kyi.

"I have now arrived in Aung San Suu Kyi's house in Myanmar. I asked her permission to take her picture, but she refused," Nyan Win quoted Yettaw as saying in the video.

"She looks frightened and I am sorry about this."

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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