Fellow Nobel laureates celebrate Suu Kyi's release

Fellow Nobel laureates celebrated freedom for pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was released from house arrest Saturday by Myanmar's military government.

Former Nobel Peace Prize winners who had gathered in Hiroshima, Japan, for a three-day meeting to urge the end of nuclear weapons received the news of Suu Kyi's release during a boat cruise. She was awarded the prize in 1991.

Former South African President Frederik Willem de Klerk and Hiroshima Gov. Hidehiko Yuzaki gave a joint toast in her honor.

"I sincerely hope next year when we have the conference she will attend," said de Klerk, who won the Nobel Peace Prize with Nelson Mandela in 1993 for his efforts to end apartheid.

"For years we have been asking at the laureate conference for her release," he said. "We welcome it, and we hope it will last, and there won't be a regression of any nature."

Shirin Ebadi, one of Iran's first female judges and the 2003 Peace Prize winner, reacted with a simple "Bravo."

"It's a victory over wrong," she said. "Like the past, I hope she can act for democracy."

The 65-year-old Suu Kyi, whose latest period of detention spanned 7 1/2 years, has come to symbolize the struggle for democracy in Myanmar, also called Burma, which has been ruled by the military since 1962.

The release of one of the world's most prominent political prisoners came a week after an election that was swept by the military's proxy political party and decried by Western nations as a sham designed to perpetuate authoritarian control.

South Africa religious leader Desmond Tutu, winner of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize, released a statement Saturday through the global leaders' group The Elders.

"Aung San Suu Kyi's release offers hope to the people of Burma, who face uncertain times following the elections," said Tutu, who is chairman of the group. "She is a global symbol of moral courage and we wish her strength and health as she makes her own transition from such a long period under house arrest."

President Barack Obama, who won the Peace Prize last year, call Suu Kyi a "hero of mine."

In a statement issued from Yokohama, Japan, where he is attending a Pacific Rim summit, Obama said Suu Kyi was "a source of inspiration for all who work to advance basic human rights in Burma and around the world."


Associated Press writer Kaori Hitomi contributed to this report.

(This version CORRECTS mayor to governor of Hiroshima in 3rd paragraph)