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June 25, 2017

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American may delay Suu Kyi verdict

YANGON, Myanmar -- The poor health of a hospitalized American on trial for entering the house of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi could delay next week's verdict, Suu Kyi's lawyer said.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman said Thursday its consular official, Colin Furst, was allowed to visit 53-year-old John Yettaw late Wednesday at Yangon General Hospital after initially being denied access.

Yettaw was admitted Monday after suffering seizures in prison.

Spokesman Richard Mei declined to comment on Yettaw's condition, saying only that he was "being treated for ongoing conditions."

Both Yettaw and Suu Kyi face five-year prison terms. The 64-year-old Nobel Peace laureate is charged with violating the terms of her house arrest for allowing Yettaw to stay for two nights at her Yangon home. Yettaw is charged with helping Suu Kyi to violate the house arrest.

A verdict was scheduled for last Friday, but judges said they needed more time to sort through legal issues and rescheduled it for Tuesday.

Lawyers expect another postponement if Yettaw remains hospitalized.

"It is likely that the court would postpone the trial. The court normally doesn't make judgment in the absence of the accused," Suu Kyi's lawyer Nyan Win said Wednesday.

Yettaw was in the hospital's intensive care unit, separate from other patients, said hospital staff who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals in the military-run country.

He reportedly suffers from epilepsy, diabetes and other health problems, including post traumatic stress disorder from his time in the U.S. military.

Critics say the ruling military has seized upon Yettaw's bizarre intrusion as an excuse to keep Suu Kyi jailed through next year's scheduled elections — the country's first in nearly two decades.

The charges against Suu Kyi, who has been detained for 14 of the last 20 years, have refocused international outrage on Myanmar, which has been ruled by its military since 1962. The regime is believed to hold hundreds of political prisoners.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday reiterated the international community's hopes that the junta would release all political prisoners ahead of elections.

A commentary published Thursday in Myanmar's state-controlled newspaper Myanma Ahlin criticized calls for Suu Kyi's release as "interference" and "showing reckless disregard for the law."

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