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Nobel committee blasts Suu Kyi detention

OSLO (Reuters) - The Norwegian committee that awards the Nobel Peace Prize condemned Friday Myanmar’s imprisonment of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 peace laureate, and demanded her immediate release.

“Her recent detention in prison is totally unacceptable,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said in a rare statement, adding its voice to other western critics of Myanmar ahead of a trial that Suu Kyi faces on charges she broke her house arrest.

“The government’s treatment of her is contrary to international rules and norms,” the five-member committee appointed by Norway’s parliament said. “We urge that she and other political prisoners be immediately and unconditionally released.”

“Free elections should be held as soon as possible,” said the statement, addressed to Myanmar’s embassy in London.

The committee’s spokesman Geir Lundestad said the committee’s show of support did not signal a change of policy from a tradition of issuing only one statement a year -- the announcement of the peace prize winner.

“We do not issue general political statements, but we have a few times in the past issued statements about Aung San Suu Kyi,” Lundestad told Reuters.

“We now feel that her situation has become worse, and we had to speak out on behalf of the health and safety of the laureate,” he said.

The committee said that recent reports about the 63-year-old Suu Kyi’s health were “of grave concern,” and it demanded that she be given the necessary medical assistance without delay.

The committee’s statement followed condemnation from the United States, Britain, the European Union, the United Nations and human rights groups of the trial that Suu Kyi faces from Monday.

She was detained on charges that she broke the terms of her house arrest when an American intruder strayed into her home.

Reporting by John Acher, editing by Mark Trevelyan