Burma's Democracy Leader Aung San Suu Kyi Freed

Burma's pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was released from house arrest on Saturday.

The 65-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who was detained for more than seven years, met thousands of supporters who greeted her at her home.

"If we work in unity, we will achieve our goal. We have a lot of things to do," she said, as reported by The Associated Press.

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President Barack Obama welcomed the news and called her a hero.

"While the Burmese regime has gone to extraordinary lengths to isolate and silence Aung San Suu Kyi, she has continued her brave fight for democracy, peace, and change in Burma," Obama said in a statement. "She is a hero of mine and a source of inspiration for all who work to advance basic human rights in Burma and around the world. The United States welcomes her long overdue release."

Her release comes a week after the country's first general election in two decades. International bodies have accused the ruling military junta of rigging the Nov. 7 election.

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a human rights watchdog, voters faced harassment, intimidation, violence and arrests in several of Burma's ethnic states, during and immediately following the elections.

In Chin state, where most of the population is Christian, voters were refused entry to the polling station if they indicated that they would not be voting for the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party. Voters in other parts of Chin state were also threatened by USDP agents with arrest if they tried to vote, CSW reported.

Burmese leaders had also barred Suu Kyi from running in the election.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party had swept the 1990 election but the military did not recognize those results. And since then, Suu Kyi has been jailed or remained under house arrest for the better part of the last twenty years.

In light of what the international community has called "sham" elections, human rights groups say an investigation into crimes against humanity in Burma is needed now more than ever.

CSW has backed a U.N. Commission of Inquiry to probe suspected human rights abuses.

"The international community now has a responsibility to act quickly, to reject the regime's elections which will perpetuate military rule, and to urge the regime to enter into a meaningful dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi, the democracy movement and the ethnic nationalities," said CSW's East Asia Team leader Benedict Rogers.

Burma, also known as Myanmar, has been ruled by a military dictatorship since 1962. The government crushes any dissenting voice and has one of the worst human rights records in the world. It is estimated that as many as 10,000 people a year are killed by the Burmese Army. Among those attacked are the Chin and Kachin ethnic groups, where 90 percent of the population is Christian. They suffer severely under Burma's pro-Buddhist military regime.

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