BANGKOK — Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese pro-democracy leader, was sentenced Tuesday to three years of hard labor, but her sentence was commuted to a new term under house arrest of up to 18 months, diplomats reported.
In a trial that was being closely watched — and had been roundly condemned — by the international community, the court in Myanmar found her guilty of violating the terms of the house arrest under which she has already been held for 14 of the last 20 years.
She was put on trial after an American intruder swam across a lake in downtown Yangon and spent two nights at her lakeside villa in early May.
The intruder, John Yettaw, 53, of Falcon, Missouri, was sentenced Tuesday to seven years of hard labor, according to the diplomats, who were reached by telephone in Yangon, the main city in Myanmar, the former Burma.
Mr. Yettaw was reported last week to have suffered a series of epileptic seizures and to have been taken to a hospital. On Tuesday he was reported to have been returned to his cell in preparation for the reading of the verdict.
Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi’s sentence means she will be able to return home from the prison guest house where she has been held since the trial began in May 18.
Her lawyer, U Nyan Win, said Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, 64, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, had been “prepared for the worst” and had collected a supply of reading matter and medications to sustain her. She had been facing a prison term of up to five years.
“From my point of view she is innocent and she should be acquitted,” Mr. Nyan Win said, speaking by telephone in advance of the verdict.
“But this is a political case and the authorities will decide it from a political point of view,” he said, adding, “I have never known of an acquittal in a political case.”
Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial has been a setback for the emerging possibility of improved relations between Myanmar and Western nations, particularly the United States, which had said it was reviewing its policy of economic sanctions and political confrontation.
But in a statement last week, the State Department appeared to stand by that possibility, saying, “The door remains open for the regime to respect the wishes of the Burmese people and international community, and to step toward the path of engagement after so many years of isolation.”
As a “welcome first step,” it called for the release of Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi along with all 2,100 political prisoners said to be detained by the military junta.
Some analysts have called the arrest of Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi a ploy to keep her in detention at least through a parliamentary election scheduled for next year. Her latest six-year term of house arrest expired in mid-May.
The election could put a civilian face on the military rule that has isolated and impoverished Myanmar, formerly Burma, since a coup in 1962. It will be the first nationwide election since 1990, which the military annulled after Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, won by a landslide.
The government newspaper, The New Light of Myanmar, has insisted that the trial of Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, like those of the other prisoners, is not political, but is based on pure criminal conduct.
Since her arrest on May 14, Mr. Nyan Win said, she has been held in an individual dormitory in Insein Prison, where the trial is being held. He said she lives on the second floor together with two female housekeepers who were arrested and charged with her. Five prison matrons live on the ground floor, he said.
Mr. Yettaw, 53, of Falcon, Mo., faced at least five years in prison as an accomplice in violating Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest as well as for immigration violations and for violating a local ordinance that bans swimming across Inya Lake
During the trial, which began May 18, Mr. Nyan Win said Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi declared her innocence and said that she was being charged for political reasons.
At a news conference last week in Yangon, the national police chief, Brig. Gen. Khin Yi, said that 20 police officers had been demoted, and that some had been given jail terms for allowing Mr. Yettaw to breach security.