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Suu Kyi sentencing draws global condemnation; EU plans new sanctions

BRUSSELS - European governments condemned Tuesday's sentencing of Myanmar's most prominent pro-democracy leader to another 18 months of house arrest and prepared for new economic and other sanctions against the country's military regime.

BRUSSELS - European governments condemned Tuesday's sentencing of Myanmar's most prominent pro-democracy leader to another 18 months of house arrest and prepared for new economic and other sanctions against the country's military regime.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke of a "sham trial." Sweden, the current European Union presidency holder, promised tighter sanctions against Myanmar's leaders. Amnesty International's secretary general called the verdict "shameful."

Aung San Suu Kyi, head of Myanmar's National League for Democracy, was found guilty Tuesday of violating the conditions of her house arrest by allowing an uninvited American to stay at her home last May.

The head of the military-ruled country ordered her to serve an additional 18-month sentence under house arrest. Suu Kyi, a 64-year-old Nobel Peace Prize, laureate has been in detention for 14 of the last 20 years.

Brown said the verdict showed Myanmar's military leaders are "determined to act with total disregard" for international law and said the verdict was designed to prevent Suu Kyi from participating in elections planned for next year.

Speaking in Goma, Congo, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Suu Kyi "should not have been tried. She should not have been convicted. We continue to call for her release."

The EU said the verdict continued 20 years of violations of international law by Myanmar's leaders.

It promised "additional targeted measures against those responsible for the verdict" and to "further reinforce its restrictive measures" against Myanmar's economy.

Sanctions now bans arms sales and travel to EU countries by hundreds of Myanmar government officials and their families and a freeze of assets held by Myanmar leaders and companies abroad.

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said the EU was working on additional sanctions that "include measures such as trade restrictions against certain state-owned companies and prohibition of entry into the EU for the four key individuals responsible for the decision."

Current sanctions affect some 120 companies - a number that will grow if the EU intensifies steps against Myanmar's banking, tourism and precious stones sectors - and a dozen top justice officials, including four supreme court judges.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Suu Kyi's trial served one purpose: to prevent her "from leading her fight in favour of a free and democratic Burma." And French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner called for a "robust mechanism for tracing rubies and wood" sold from Myanmar.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini called the verdict "unfair" and urged a "common, firm and unequivocal" answer from the EU.

In Ottawa, Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement strongly condemning the sentencing.

"This decision is clearly not in accordance with the rule of law: the charges laid against her were baseless and her trial did not come close to meeting international standards of due process," Harper said.

"Her continued detention is unwarranted, unjustified, and vindictive."

Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been ruled by the military since 1962.

The current junta came to power in 1988 after crushing a pro-democracy uprising. Suu Kyi's party won 392 of 495 parliament seats in 1990 elections, but the military ignored the results. Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

Irene Khan, Amnesty International's secretary general, said Suu Kyi had faced a maximum sentence of five years.

"The Myanmar authorities will hope that a sentence that is shorter than the maximum will be seen by the international community as an act of leniency," added Khan. "But it is not, and must not be seen as such."

She said Suu Kyi should never have been arrested in the first place.

-With files from The Canadian Press.

 
 
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