Page last updated at 14:53 GMT, Monday, 18 January 2010

Burma's Supreme Court hears final Suu Kyi appeal

Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon - 4 November 2009
Aung San Suu Kyi has been detained for 14 of the last 20 years

Burma's Supreme Court has heard a final appeal against the extended house arrest of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Her sentence was extended by 18 months last year after a US man swam uninvited to her lakeside home in Rangoon.

An earlier appeal was rejected by a lower court.

The hearing comes days after the latest in a series of meetings between Ms Suu Kyi and a member of the military government.

Her lawyers have based their appeal on a legal technicality rather than the facts of the case, says the BBC's South-East Asia correspondent, Rachel Harvey.

They argue that the charges against their client were brought using a law from a constitution which is now defunct.

Speaking to the BBC just before the hearing, one of Ms Suu Kyi's lawyers, sounded confident.

"From a purely legal point of view," he said, "we should win".

But Western diplomats based in Rangoon believe that confidence may be grounded more in hope than expectation, our correspondent reports.

A decision is not expected for at least a week.

Election plans

The appeal comes just days after another meeting between Aung San Suu Kyi and the minister appointed to act as liaison between the pro-democracy leader and the government.

No details of what was discussed have been released.

Ms Suu Kyi has asked for direct talks with the head of the military government, General Than Shwe, and has offered to to help try to get international sanctions eased.

The suggestion was first made four months ago, and repeated in November but so far there has been no official response.

The government is planning elections for later this year, the first since 1990 when the military refused to recognise the landslide victory of the opposition National League for Democracy.

The extension of Ms Suu Kyi's house arrest means she will be unable to compete in this year's elections.

The 64-year-old Nobel peace laureate has spent 14 of the past 20 years in detention.

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