/ 12 June 2009

New delays in Burma trial of Suu Kyi

Burma officials on Friday postponed an appeal hearing and adjourned the main trial of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in what diplomats said were attempts by the junta to stall the legal process.

The National League for Democracy (NLD) leader is being tried on charges that she broke the rules of her house arrest when an American man swam to her lakeside home in May, in a case that has drawn fierce international criticism.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s high court appeal, seeking to overturn a ban on two defence witnesses at her trial, was due to be held on June 17 but a later date will now be set, said one of her three-member legal team, Nyan Win.

She appeared in court for a 20-minute hearing on Friday, but the closed-door prison trial was then adjourned to reconvene on June 26 when it will hear from legal expert Khin Moe Moe, whose testimony was initially refused.

”They will now accept the testimony of Khin Moe Moe. She will testify as an expert on legal and political matters and explain that Aung San Suu Kyi was not the person who disturbed the peace and stability of the people,” Nyan Win said.

The court told Aung San Suu Kyi’s defence team that a two-week court recess was necessary because Khin Moe Moe, whose witness ban was overturned by an appeal court on Tuesday, lives far from Rangoon in eastern Shan state.

Another legal expert, Kyi Win, has already testified for Aung San Suu Kyi.

Bars remain on Win Tin, a journalist who was Burma’s longest serving political prisoner until his release in September, and detained deputy NLD leader Tin Oo, but Nyan Win said he hoped for a positive verdict by the high court.

”We expect our appeal to be accepted by the high court because our request is clearly in accordance with the law,” he said.

Nyan Win, who also acts as the NLD’s spokesperson, said he had also been given permission to visit the now deserted lakeside property of Aung San Suu Kyi on Saturday, where she was kept in near isolation.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner, aged 63 and recently in poor health, faces up to five years in jail if convicted.

She believes her trial is politically motivated, Nyan Win has said, as the charges could keep her locked up far beyond controversial elections promised for next year, in which she is barred from standing.

About 20 members of her NLD party on Friday sat outside Rangoon’s notorious Insein prison, where Aung San Suu Kyi is being held.

Western diplomats in Rangoon say a string of delayed court dates is a sign that the ruling generals are seeking to stall the proceedings after being shocked by the vehement worldwide criticism of the trial.

United States President Barack Obama called it a ”show trial”, while the leaders of France and Germany on Thursday expressed their grave concern for the opposition leader and appealed to China and India to help.

Aung San Suu Kyi has spent 13 of the past 19 years in detention since the junta refused to recognise the NLD’s landslide victory in the country’s last elections in 1990. — Sapa-AFP