U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Wednesday called the Burmese government's trial of Aung San Suu Kyi outrageous, and said its treatment of the democracy leader will render the country's planned elections next year illegitimate.
Clinton's comments on Burma, in two Senate hearings Wednesday on the State Department budget, were the strongest to date by the Obama administration on the latest prosecution of Aung San Suu Kyi.
The dissident figure, who has been under varying forms of detention most of the time since 1990, faces a possible five-year prison term for a bizarre incident earlier this month in which a U.S. citizen swam across a lake and entered the villa in central Rangoon where she is under house arrest.
Clinton said United States rejects the charge that Aung San Suu Kyi violated terms of her house arrest. She said the United States is trying to mobilize international pressure for her early release but acknowledged that prospects for persuading the reclusive military government to change course are uncertain.
"We don't know whether we will have any success in convincing them otherwise," said Hillary Clinton. "But it is outrageous that they are trying her, and that they continue to hold her because of her political popularity. And they intend to hold elections in 2010, which from the beginning will be illegitimate because of the way they have treated her."
Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy Party won national elections in 1990 but was barred by the military from taking power.
The 2010 elections will be the culmination of a so-called road map to democracy engineered by the government which excludes Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace laureate, and would leave the military in control of key levers of power.
Clinton has discussed the issue with a number of Asian leaders including the secretary-general of ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and told senators she is heartened by the regional response though she did not elaborate.
She said she hoped the baseless trial of Aung San Suu Kyi will end with her speedy release and the restoration of a role by her and her party in the country's political life.