Burmese opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi has been released from house arrest and will walk free for the first time in seven years.
The Nobel laureate has been checked by doctors and briefly stood at the gates of her crumbling compound on the shores of Inya Lake where thousands of supporters eagerly waited.
Such was the din of cheering that her speech was inaudible, reports from the scene claim. She will spend tonight in her house and tomorrow give a longer address.
Rumours that she was to be released yesterday were brought to a close last night when her lawyer, Nyan Win, said that she was still negotiating the conditions of her release. It is not clear what agreement was made, but the 65-year-old is believed to have demanded that no strings be attached, with previous spells of freedom overshadowed by restrictions on her movement.
The celebrations that have accompanied news of her release appear to quash any doubt about her relevance in a country that last week held its first elections in two decades, and which the party she founded 22 years ago refused to participate in.
Kept out of the political arena for more than 15 of the past 20 years, Suu Kyi has led a quiet life inside the house passed down to her by her late mother. Her two live-in caretakers, Win Ma Ma and Khin Khin Win, have provided the only company, bar sporadic visits from her lawyer and doctor.
The latest stretch of near-isolation was punctuated in May 2009 by the bizarre visit of US citizen John Yettaw, who swam across the lake in what he said was a mission from God to save Suu Kyi from danger.
That incident resulted in an additional 18 months being added to the opposition leader’s sentence – Yettaw had arrived days before she was due to be released, and the junta saw it as the perfect ploy to keep her behind closed doors while it prepared for last week’s polls.