YANGON - Myanmar's military junta charged pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi Thursday with breaching the terms of her house arrest over a bizarre incident in which a US man swam to her lakeside house.
The 63-year-old goes on trial Monday on the charges, which carry a jail term of up to five years and would stretch her detention past its supposed expiry date this month and through controversial elections due in 2010.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate and her two maids appeared in court at the notorious Insein Prison near Yangon, hours after police whisked her from the residence where she has been detained for most of the past two decades.
"The authorities have charged Aung San Suu Kyi and her two maids" under the Law Safeguarding the State from the Dangers of Subversive Elements, one of her lawyers, Hla Myo Myint, told reporters outside the prison.
The law governs the conditions under which Aung San Suu Kyi is held under house arrest. Legal sources said she was accused of violating the law by communicating with foreigners.
US national John Yettaw, who was held last week for sneaking into her house and staying there for two days before he was caught, was also charged with breaking the security law and immigration conditions, Hla Myo Myint said.
Yettaw, 53, apparently used a pair of homemade flippers to swim across a lake to her crumbling residence in an apparent show of solidarity, but Aung San Suu Kyi's main lawyer Kyi Win said they had asked him to leave.
"We have to blame him," Kyi Win said. "He is a fool."
Aung San Suu Kyi would not be allowed to return home, but would be held at a special house on the grounds of the prison while proceedings were under way, Kyi Win added.
The charges against her provoked international anger, with the US State Department describing them as "troubling" and European Union special envoy Piero Fassino saying that there was "no justification".
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was "deeply disturbed" by the "unlawful" detention.
Dozens of Myanmar protesters meanwhile rallied in front of the country's embassy in Tokyo. AFP