The American mystery man behind Aung San Suu Kyi's latest troubles(Read article summary)
John Yettaw's unauthorized visit to the home of the Burmese Nobel Peace Prize laureate may land her in jail for another five years. Final arguments for her speedy trial begin Monday.
The trial of Aung San Suu Kyi has boosted even further the prominence of the worldâ€™s best-known prisoner of conscience.
Itâ€™s also drawn worldwide attention â€“ or, notoriety â€“ to John Yettaw, the American who entered Burma (Myanmar) illegally, then swam to Ms. Suu Kyi's home late at night with homemade fins on a â€śmission from God.â€ť
The mission? To warn her about an assassination plot.
Yettaw reportedly swam two kilometers across the lake â€“ no easy task â€“ with homemade fins (see photo here), a backpack full of clothes, books, and a five-liter bottle that may have served as a flotation device.
Other possessions included a â€śBook of Mormon, a video camera, black Muslim robes, stockings and dark glasses,â€ť according to his testimony, reported Irrawaddy, a Burmese English-language publication based in Thailand.
Suu Kyiâ€™s decision to allow her uninvited, tired guest to stay overnight earlier this month may land her in jail for up to five years, for violating the terms of her current imprisonment. Suu Kyi has lived under house arrest for 13 of the past 19 years. Her current six-year term was set to expire Wednesday.
Instead sheâ€™s spent the past week at Burmaâ€™s infamous Insein Prison, as has Mr. Yettaw. The trial is clipping toward what many expect will be a guilty verdict: It began nine days ago and heard 14 prosecution witnesses.
The defense witness tally? Only one was allowed by the court.
Final arguments are scheduled for Monday.
Who is the man who landed her in trouble?
Yettaw had six children with Yvonne, plus one from her previous marriage, Craig Dehner. They were married for 12 years before divorcing in 2002. One of his sons died in a motorcycle accident in 2007 â€“ a death Yettaw blamed on himself, according to Mr. Dehner.
He worked part-time as a general contractor and received veteranâ€™s disability payment, she said.
Yettaw has said heâ€™s a student at the Forest Institute in Springfield, Mo., a school for advanced degrees in psychology. But officials at the school told the Associated Press that Yettaw neither was currently enrolled nor had a degree from there.
Why did he do it?
According to Yvonne, whom John visited last month before his travels, he said he was going to Asia to write a psychology paper about forgiveness.
His current wife, Betty, confirmed his research interests, saying he wanted to talk to Suu Kyi to learn about how people cope with stress and abuse. â€śâ€śHe has no agenda whatsoever as far as the country goes. He really just wanted to have some comments from her, I believe,â€ť she told the AP.
Yettaw gave a different reason when he testified in court Wednesday: He said he needed to warn Suu Kyi about a vision heâ€™d had that terrorists were plotting to assassinate her and blame the government. He claimed to be â€śon a mission from God,â€ť Suu Kyiâ€™s lawyer, Nyan Win, was quoted in Democratic Voice of Burma, an expatriate media organization.
Apparently this vision had come to him twice. Yettaw tried â€“ unsuccessfully â€“ to visit Suu Kyiâ€™s home last November.
â€śHe said he was only here to warn us, as God told him to and that he loves Burmese people and has respect to the Burmese Police who are very well disciplined,â€ť said Nyan Win.
How have people reacted?
Activists have lambasted Yettaw, frustrated that his visit gave the regime a reason to further punish Suu Kyi.
Betty Yettaw defends her husband. â€śHeâ€™s not crazy. Heâ€™s eccentric,â€ť she told the AP.
â€śHeâ€™s a very peaceloving person, well-meaning, forgiving, mild-mannered. He meant the very best for her. I donâ€™t think he could have foreseen that it was going to be such a mess, that they were going to make such a huge deal out of it,â€ť she said. â€śHe probably thought he would be in and out, and no one would know because thatâ€™s what happened before.â€ť
What happened during his stay?
Four or five armed guards saw Yettaw as he approached Suu Kyiâ€™s compound but didnâ€™t try to stop him, said lawyer Nyan Win. â€śThey were carrying guns with them but they didnâ€™t do anything to stop him from approaching the house, apart from throwing some stones at him,â€ť he said. One of Suu Kyiâ€™s two assistants alerted her to the intruder around 5 a.m. on May 4, and she offered him â€śtemporary shelter,â€ť she testified on Tuesday. He left on the evening of May 5.
Suu Kyi says she didnâ€™t report him to the authorities to avoid getting him in trouble. He was arrested while swimming away from her home.
Suu Kyiâ€™s legal team has argued she canâ€™t be held responsible for Yettawâ€™s visit. Instead the fault lies with the guards who allowed the security breach, it claims. None of them have been punished. "The fact that I am the only party being prosecuted shows the partiality of the prosecution," Suu Kyi said in a written statement to the court this week.
What charges does Yettaw face?
Yettaw faces up to five years in prison for illegally entering a restricted zone. Another charge, of breaking immigration laws, is punishable by up to one year in prison.