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June 2, 2009 (AFP), A US man who swam to the home of Aung San Suu Kyi was not paid by or taking orders from any outside organisation, his lawyer said today ahead of final arguments in the trial of Burma’s opposition leader.
Burma’s military regime has expressed scepticism over John Yettaw’s explanation for his visit to the Nobel laureate’s lakeside home, with one official suggesting that the American was a "secret agent or her boyfriend."
But lawyer Khin Maung Oo said the devout Mormon was a "sincere and pious" person who believed God had told him to warn Aung San Suu Kyi and the government after he had a vision that she would be assassinated.
"There is no issue of him acting on someone’s instruction to him or that some organisation provided money to him to do so," Khin Maung Oo said of his client, who like Aung San Suu Kyi faces up to five years in jail.
"As far as I know, he’s a very sincere and pious person. He cooperated with the court. He answered the same during the interrogation and at the trial," he told AFP.
The lawyer added that photos taken by the American in Aung San Suu Kyi’s house — which the prosecution have focused on during the trial — were "just to show his daughter, not for publicity or not to communicate to anyone."
Hearings in the mostly closed trial of Aung San Suu Kyi and Yettaw have been adjourned until Friday when lawyers will present their closing arguments. The trial has drawn international condemnation.
Yettaw, a former US military veteran, testified in court last week that he had a dream in which Aung San Suu Kyi was killed by "terrorists" and that he swam across the lake using a pair of homemade flippers to alert her.
Last month Burma’s consul general in Hong Kong posted a letter on the internet saying that "we have no idea whether he is either secret agent or her boyfriend."
The country’s deputy defence minister, Major General Aye Myint, said Sunday that Aung San Suu Kyi had deliberately covered up the visit.
Khin Maung Oo said Yettaw’s story about his reasons for his bizarre night-time swim across Rangoon’s Inya Lake on 4 May had been consistent both under interrogation and when his client testified last week.
"He did not deny entering [the house]. He said he came here on God’s mission to warn Senior General Than Shwe and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi," he said.
"He said he came to warn that she could be assassinated by some terrorists. He said he had his vision in the state of trance.
"If he had failed to do so, Aung San Suu Kyi could be lost and the government will also lose dignity."
Khin also said his 53-year-old client was a Vietnam War veteran who has post-traumatic stress syndrome, diabetes and heart disease.
Aung San Suu Kyi has branded the trial as biased and said that she allowed Yettaw to have "temporary shelter" for a night.
She blamed Burmese authorities for the intrusion, saying they failed to provide proper security.