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France’s first lady, Carla Bruni, has written an open letter calling for Burma’s junta to free the country’s opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Under house arrest in Burma for nearly 13 of the past 19 years for her pro-democratic and human rights campaigning, Suu Kyi allegedly violated the terms of her house arrest by allowing a man into her home after he swam across a lake to her property. As a consequence, she is now on trial in Rangoon and faces up to five years imprisonment if found guilty.

Ms Bruni fears that, due to recent reports that Suu Kyi’s health is poor, imprisonment could be the end for her. However, the military opened up her trial last Wednesday to reporters and diplomats, and Associated Press reports that she seems to be doing well according to Joselito Jacinto, a diplomat from the Philippine Embassy: “We saw Aung San Suu Kyi, and she appeared very strong. She sat listening intently and alertly to what was going on. She exuded a type of aura which can be described as moving, quite awe-inspiring.”

Not surprising considering that it’s Aung San Suu Kyi – a Nobel Peace Prize winner; a peaceful protester reminiscent of Mahatma Gandhi; and the first elected leader of Burma nearly 20 years ago after decades of military rule, although the military never allowed her to assume prime ministership.

This is the other concern that Ms Bruni has: “To imprison [Suu Kyi], and all of the regime’s opponents, is to smother any hope for democracy in Burma.”

Indeed, an upcoming election may be what is behind this seemingly staged event. The military has ruled Burma since 1962. They wouldn’t hand over power to Suu Kyi after her landslide victory at the last election in 1990, and are generally suspected of orchestrating a prison term for her to keep her out of the next one.

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