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Aung San Suu Kyi Charged With Violating House Arrest

Lawyers for detained Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she is being charged with violating the terms of her house arrest and will soon face trial. The charges appear related to an American man who also faces charges for sneaking into her house. Her supporters say the charges are an excuse to keep her locked up.World leaders have expressed concern about news that Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been taken to a Rangoon prison.

Burmese authorities took Aung San Suu Kyi to court, Thursday morning, along with two of her maids.

One of her lawyers, Kyi Win, told VOA she was charged with violating her house arrest in connection with an American man sneaking into her compound.

Kyi Win says a hearing has been scheduled for Monday. He says Aung San Suu Kyi was charged with breaching Act 22, which outlaws "destructive elements" of the state. He says she denies committing any acts related to the charge.

The American man, John Yettaw, was arrested last week after swimming across a lake and spending two nights in Aung San Suu Kyi's residence.

The democracy leader has been detained in her house for most of the last 18 years and is rarely allowed visitors.

Yettaw has been charged with violating security and immigration laws.

Richard Mei, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon, told VOA that Yettaw also appeared at the court today and is expected to be at the hearing next week, as well. He says, after some days of getting no response from the Burmese authorities, the embassy was finally granted access to Yettaw.

"The embassy has overall, ever since last Thursday, when we first received notice from the foreign ministry about this man's arrest, that we've conveyed the U.S. government's strong interest in his case and our concerns for his health, welfare and fair treatment," said Mei.

It is not clear why Yettaw entered the Nobel Peace Prize winner's compound or what he did during the two days.

Aung San Suu Kyi's supporters say the charges are an excuse to extend her detention, which expires on May 27.

Burma's military government routinely extends her house arrest, but these new charges could put her in prison for up to five years.

The charges come at a politically sensitive time for Burma.

The Burmese generals have planned new elections in 2010, as part of what they call the country's "roadmap to democracy."

Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party overwhelmingly won the country's last elections in 1990, but Burma's military rulers ignored the results and placed her under house arrest.

In preparation for these new elections, the military has already forced through constitutional changes that will allow it to maintain power, no matter which parties are elected.

The plan has been widely criticized by rights groups and western governments.