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American freed in Myanmar is on way home

BANGKOK, Thailand — An American man imprisoned in Myanmar for sneaking into the opposition leader's compound but released with the help of a visiting U.S. senator headed home on a flight Tuesday.

John Yettaw, 53, of Falcon, Mo., was detained in Myanmar for three months after he swam across a lake and made an unauthorized visit to the home of detained democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

He was sentenced last week to seven years in prison, but U.S. Sen. Jim Webb met the country's military leaders and won his early release Sunday. Yettaw, who is in poor health, flew to Thailand later Sunday and spent two days undergoing tests in Bangkok hospitals.

Using a wheelchair and wearing a face mask, Yettaw said "Love you" to journalists before heading onto a flight in Bangkok Tuesday morning. He made no other comments.

He was ticketed through to Springfield, Mo., according to airline officials.

Myanmar has said Yettaw was freed on humanitarian grounds because of his health. He reportedly suffers from diabetes, epilepsy and asthma and was hospitalized for a week during his trial after suffering seizures.

Yettaw was apprehended May 6 as he swam away from Suu Kyi's lakeside residence, where he had sheltered for two days after sneaking in uninvited.

He was convicted last week of breaking the terms of Suu Kyi's house arrest and related charges, and sentenced to seven years in prison with hard labor.

Suu Kyi, who has been detained for 14 of the last 20 years, was herself sentenced to three years in prison with hard labor for violating her house arrest conditions through Yettaw's visit, although that was reduced to 18 months under house arrest.

American freed in Myanmar is on way home 08/18/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 18, 2009 10:27pm]
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