Friday, August 7, 2009

American Intruder Has Another Seizure
RANGOON — An American on trial for entering the house of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi had three short epileptic fits on Friday, police said, fueling concerns that his poor health could delay next week's verdict.

John W Yettaw, 53, was admitted to Yangon General Hospital on Monday after suffering a seizure in prison, said national police chief Brig-Gen. Khin Yi.
Burmese Police Chief Brig-Gen Khin Yi, speaks at a news conference in Naypyidaw last year.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Each of Yettaw's seizures on Friday lasted for a few seconds, the police chief told a news conference. He did not elaborate on the American's overall condition.

Yettaw swam uninvited to Suu Kyi's home in May, prompting the government to accuse the 64-year-old Nobel Peace laureate of violating her house arrest and the American of helping her to do so. Both Yettaw and Suu Kyi face five-year prison terms.

Critics say the ruling military has seized upon Yettaw's bizarre intrusion as an excuse to keep Suu Kyi jailed through next year's scheduled elections—the country's first in nearly two decades.

The charges against Suu Kyi, who has been detained for nearly 14 of the last 20 years, have refocused international outrage on Burma, which has been ruled by its military since 1962.

A verdict was scheduled for last Friday, but judges said they needed more time to sort through legal issues and rescheduled it for Tuesday.

Lawyers expect another postponement if Yettaw remains hospitalized, reasoning that courts in Burma don't generally make rulings in the absence of the accused.

The police chief declined to comment on the matter, saying only, "It depends on the decision of the court."

In addition to epilepsy, Yettaw reportedly suffers from diabetes and other health problems, including post traumatic stress disorder from his time in the US military.

Since he was taken into custody in early May, Yettaw has been on intermittent liquid diets on eight occasions, totaling 62 days, said Khin Yi.

Yettaw, a devout Mormon, told prison authorities that he was fasting due to his religious beliefs and not on a hunger strike, Khin Yi said.

Meanwhile, Khin Yi told reporters on Friday that Yettaw had connections with Burmese exiled groups, saying that a woman who was photographed together with Yettaw at an exiled group’s office in Mae Sot had been arrested in the Burmese border town of Myawaddy.

Khin Yi also alleged that in July, during UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s visit to Burma, Htay Aung of the Vigorous Burmese Student Warrior group was arrested after he attempted to detonate a bomb near Insein Prison where Suu Kyi’s trial was being held.

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