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American sentenced with Suu Kyi being released after US senator visits Myanmar

[JURIST] American citizen John Yettaw, sentenced for swimming to and staying in the home of Myanmar opposition pro-democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], is expected to be released on Sunday, according to an announcement on Saturday following a closed meeting between US Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) [official website] and Myanmar's Senior General Than Shwe [BBC profile] on Saturday. Webb, who chairs the Senate Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs [membership page], is the first senior American official to visit Myanmar [press release] in over ten years, becoming the highest ranking official who has met with the head of Myanmar's junta. The senator's request for Suu Kyi's release did not elicit any committment from the Than Shwe.

Earlier this week, Suu Kyi and American Yettaw were convicted [JURIST report] of violating state security laws after Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest, allowed Yettaw to stay in her home after he swam across a lake to visit her. Suu Kyi was sentenced to 18 more months of house arrest, and Yettaw was sentenced to seven years in prison, with four years of hard labor. The verdict has been widely criticized by world leaders and human rights groups, with many calling for her immediate release. Suu Kyi, a prominent human rights activist, has spent 12 of the past 18 years in prison or under house arrest for alleged violations of an anti-subversion law [text, PDF].

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