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Page last updated at 19:20 GMT, Friday, 19 June 2009 20:20 UK

Protests mark Suu Kyi's birthday

Image of Aung San Suu Kyi on European Parliament"s building at Place du Luxembourg, 18/06
The European Union is taking part in the campaign to free Ms Suu Kyi

Activists across the world have marked the 64th birthday of Burma's detained opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, with vigils and protests.

Celebrities including author Salman Rushdie and actors George Clooney and Julia Roberts have signed an online petition demanding that she be freed.

The EU also agreed to boost sanctions on Burma's military rulers, and renewed calls for her release.

Ms Suu Kyi has been under detention for much of the past 19 years.

Announcing the sanctions, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: "Europe agreed today to step up sanctions and take further targeted measures against the Burmese regime."

Speaking after a summit of all 27 EU member states in Brussels, Mr Brown described Aung San Suu Kyi as "perhaps the most renowned prisoner of conscience in the world".

A joint statement agreed by EU leaders said that unless Ms Suu Kyi and 2,000 other political prisoners were released, the credibility of elections scheduled for Burma in 2010 would be undermined.

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Ms Suu Kyi is currently on trial accused of breaking the terms of her detention.

She was charged after an American man swam to the house where she is being held, and stayed there overnight.

Insein jail

Observers say the charges - which carry a maximum punishment of five years in jail - are designed to keep Ms Suu Kyi imprisoned until after next year's election.

While she is on trial, Ms Suu Kyi is imprisoned in Rangoon's Insein jail - a notorious facility where many political prisoners are held.

Nyan Win, a close aide of Ms Suu Kyi, said he took flowers, chocolate cake and lunch boxes full of spiced rice to the jail, so she could share the food with prison staff.

There was also a small celebration at the Rangoon headquarters of her political party, the National League for Democracy.

Ms Suu Kyi's supporters there released balloons and small birds, and made offerings of food to Buddhist monks in her honour.

Burmese exile groups have launched a website called "64 for Suu" and invited celebrities, politicians and members of the public to send a 64-word birthday message to Ms Suu Kyi.

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Aung San Suu Kyi's supporters in Manila made a birthday cake and spelled out the words "not guilty" with hundreds of red roses

Protesters in at least 20 cities - from Geneva to Kuala Lumpur - arranged events to mark her birthday, with calls for her to be set free.

In his message, British tycoon Richard Branson called her a "shining light for us all".

Another message came from a group of women Nobel Peace Prize laureates, including Guatemalan rights activist Rigoberta Menchu and US anti-landmine campaigner Jody Williams.

They said: "Your imprisonment and trial are a stark illustration of the brutality and lawlessness of the Burmese military regime."

Ms Suu Kyi has been under house arrest and banned from seeing all but a small group of people for 13 of the past 19 years.



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