International leaders, human rights groups outraged over decision to hold opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for 18 months
World leaders are strongly condemning Burma's government for deciding to keep opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for another 18 months, and are calling for her immediate and unconditional release.
In an interview with VOA, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu called Suu Kyi "the Nelson Mandela of Burma." VOA's Cindy Saine reports on world reaction to Tuesday's conviction and sentencing.
Reaction across the world was swift, as demonstrators gathered outside Burma's embassy in London to express their solidarity with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
A group of prominent global leaders known as "The Elders" called on ASEAN, the European Union and the U.N. Security Council not to accept Burma's verdict of another 18 months under house arrest for the Nobel Peace laureate.
Retired South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu chairs the group. He sat down for an interview with VOA at a seminary near Washington, D.C. Tuesday. He said that even under Burmese law, it is illegal to keep sentencing Aung San Suu Kyi again and again.
"But I mean we know that it is a show trial to try to keep her out of the way so that they can have their sham elections in 2010," said Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Tutu said he has not been able to communicate with Aung San Suu Kyi, who is an honorary member of The Elders, for a long time. She has been in detention for 14 of the past 20 years, mostly under house arrest.
He said the activist is a symbol of the cruel and depraved way Burma's rulers treat their people, including attacking and killing monks, and not allowing humanitarian assistance to reach victims of Cyclone Nargis last year.
"Although we concentrate on Aung San Suu Kyi, it is something like what used to happen with Nelson Mandela," said Tutu. "You used that name because it personalized it. Whereas, if you speak about political prisoners, it is a very fuzzy thing. Now you have got Aung San Suu Kyi, the, as it were, as the Mandela of Burma."
Traveling in Africa, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Aung San Suu Kyi should not have been tried or convicted, and called for the release of the more than 2,000 political prisoners in Burma, including the American John Yettaw who swam across a lake to visit her. The 53-year-old who suffers from multiple medical problems, was sentenced to seven years of hard labor. His visit last May to Suu Kyi's home prompted Burma's rulers to put both of them on trial for alleged security violations.
In a written White House statement, President Barack Obama also called for the release of all of Burma's political prisoners, and said suppressing ideas never gets rid of them.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also called on Burma's rulers to release Aung San Suu Kyi, and said if she and all other political leaders are not allowed to take part in elections next year, the credibility of the vote will be in doubt. The U.N. Security Council convened to discuss Burma Tuesday.