US man departs Myanmar

YANGON: The U.S. Embassy says an American man imprisoned for sneaking into the home of Myanmar's democracy leader has been flown out of the country.

John Yettaw, 53, was arrested after swimming to Aung San Suu Kyi's home and staying two days.

The embassy says Yettaw of Falcon, Missouri is headed to Bangkok, Thailand on Sunday on a military plane with U.S. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia. The senator secured his release Saturday with a plea to Myanmar's ruling junta.

Webb thanked the government for the release of Yettaw at a brief news conference just prior to their departure. He was sentenced last week to seven years at hard labor for breaking the terms of Suu Kyi's house arrest in early May.

Suu Kyi was given 18 months additional house arrest.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — A U.S. man sentenced to seven years in jail for sneaking into the home of detained Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was handed over to an American consular official on Sunday to be flown out of the country.

A U.S. Embassy car retrieved John Yettaw from the prison where he has been held since early May after he was arrested while swimming away from Suu Kyi's house.

U.S. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia secured Yettaw's release Saturday and the two will fly on a military plane to Bangkok, Thailand later Sunday, according to a statement from the senator's office.

Yettaw and Suu Kyi were both convicted last week of breaking the terms of her house arrest. Suu Kyi, who has been detained for 14 of the last 20 years, was given 18 months additional house arrest. Yettaw, 53, of Falcon, Missouri, was also convicted of an immigration violation and swimming in a restricted zone.

During Webb's visit to Myanmar — the first by a member of the U.S. Congress in more than a decade — the senator also secured a rare visit with Suu Kyi.

Yettaw has been held in Insein, Myanmar's largest prison, which is notorious for widespread torture and other abuse of both political prisoners and ordinary criminals.

His lawyer has said his client was well-treated, though he fell ill while incarcerated. Before his conviction on Tuesday, he spent a week in a prison hospital for epileptic seizures. He is also said to suffer from asthma and diabetes.

"If it's true, of course I'm extremely happy and we're ecstatic," Betty Yettaw told The Associated Press on Saturday, referring to reports her husband would be freed. She had yet to receive any official notice.

The junta may have approved the meeting with Suu Kyi and agreed to release Yettaw to quell the torrent of international criticism against Myanmar following the trial and Tuesday's verdict. In July, authorities barred U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon from meeting with Suu Kyi during a two-day visit.

The statement said Webb requested that Suu Kyi be released during a meeting with junta leader Senior Gen. Than Shwe on Saturday. It was the first time the reclusive general had met with a senior U.S. official.

"It is my hope that we can take advantage of these gestures as a way to begin laying the foundations of goodwill and confidence building in the future," Webb was quoted as saying in the statement.

Webb, who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's East Asia and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, described the meeting as "an opportunity ... to convey my deep respect to Aung San Suu Kyi for the sacrifices she has made on behalf of democracy around the world."