An American whose swim to the lakeside house of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese pro-democracy leader, led to her arrest, told her trial yesterday that he wanted to warn the Nobel laureate about a premonition that she was to be assassinated by terrorists.

John Yettaw, a Mormon, told the court that God asked him to travel to Burma from his home in Missouri to warn Suu Kyi that terrorists intended to kill her and then place the blame on the junta. If convicted on charges of breaching her house arrest by not telling the authorities about Yettaw’s visit, Suu Kyi could face up to five years in jail.

The trial, taking place behind closed doors inside the notorious Insein prison in Rangoon, has been condemned internationally. Yesterday was the nineteenth anniversary of an election victory for Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party — a result that was never recognised by the junta. For 13 of the 19 years she has been confined to her crumbling villa in Rangoon under house arrest.

On Tuesday, President Obama demanded the "immediate and unconditional" release of Suu Kyi. Yesterday Burma’s neighbors also expressed unusually strong disapproval. Critics accuse the regime of trumping up the charges to keep her locked up during elections due next year.

Surin Pitsuwan, the head of the Association of South-East Asian Nations regional group, of which Burma is part, said that Suu Kyi's trial was damaging the grouping’s reputation and straining its policy of quiet diplomacy.

"The organization is mindful of the fact it does not want to interfere in the internal affairs of any member state," Pitsuwan told reporters. "But when those issues affect the efficiency, the profile and the confidence in the organisation, it has to be expressed."

Nyan Win, a spokesman for the NLD party who is also part of Suu Kyi's defense team, said that the court rejected three of the four witnesses requested by the defence, including the detained party deputy leader. He said a verdict may come tomorrow.

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