Diplomats to visit Burmese pro-democracy leader

Burma's military regime will allow diplomats to meet with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi after today's session of her trial.

The move follows a hail of international criticism over the junta's handling of her case.

Ms Suu Kyi, who has been in detention without trial for more than 13 of the past 19 years, is accused of violating the terms of her house arrest by allowing an American visitor to stay at her home without official permission.

The offence is punishable by up to five years' imprisonment.

She is standing trial with two female members of her party who live with her, and John W. Yettaw, the American man who triggered the charges by swimming to Ms Suu Kyi's property under the cover of darkness earlier this month and sneaking uninvited into her home.

Ms Suu Kyi, who is being held at the infamous Insein Prison along with scores of other political prisoners, had been scheduled to be freed on May 27 after six consecutive years under house arrest.

The charges against her are widely seen as a pretext for her to stay in detention during polls scheduled for next year - the culmination of the junta's "roadmap to democracy", which has been criticised as a fig leaf for continued military rule.

Burma has been under military rule since 1962. It last held an election in 1990, but the junta refused to honour the results after a landslide victory by Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party.

The court on Monday rejected a request by Ms Suu Kyi's lawyer for an open trial.

Today however, the country's Information Ministry ruled that five foreign correspondents and five local reporters could attend the trial's afternoon session. Authorities also said all embassies could send one diplomat.

A US consular official had been allowed to attend the court sessions because Mr Yettaw is standing trial, but the proceedings were otherwise closed to the press and public.


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