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Myanmar court begins trial of jailed democracy advocate

[JURIST] Pro-democracy advocate and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] went on trial Monday in Myanmar for violating the terms of her house arrest. Suu Kyi allegedly violated these terms earlier this month by allowing an American man who swam across a lake [NYT report] to stay with her and faces up to five years imprisonment. Her arrest was controversial and highly criticized [JURIST report] by the international community. Myanmar riot police surrounded Insein prison [BBC backgrounder] to protect it from protesters. One of Suu Kyi's laywers told the media [AP report] that the court rejected a request to open the trial up to the media and the public for security reasons. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] condemned Myanmar's actions, calling the charges "trumped up" [HRW report] and seeking international support for her release.

Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy, has spent 12 of the past 18 years in prison or under house arrest for alleged violations of an anti-subversion law [text]. In 2007, the military government had implied that she might be released [JURIST report] after the country's new constitution was approved. In May 2008, the junta announced that Myanmar's draft constitution [JURIST news archive] had been overwhelmingly approved [JURIST report] but the ruling junta at the same time extended Suu Kyi's house arrest for another year [JURIST report].

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