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Burma court allows Suu Kyi witness appeal

Burma’s top court agreed on Wednesday to hear an appeal by Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyers to reinstate two witnesses at her trial, as United Nations experts poured fresh scorn on the ruling junta’s case against her.

The Nobel laureate, who turns 64 on Friday, is being held at Rangoon’s notorious Insein prison on charges of breaching the terms of her house arrest after an American man swam to her lakeside house in May.

The Supreme Court heard submissions from her legal team arguing that it should allow them to formally appeal against an earlier ban on the two witnesses, both senior members of her National League for Democracy (NLD).

”We are glad that they agreed to hear the revision application, according to the law,” said Nyan Win, one of her three lawyers and the spokesperson for the NLD, after the decision to hear the appeal was posted on a court noticeboard.

”Now the high court will set another date for hearings from both sides. We have to prepare for the hearing.”

He said the court heard the defence team’s arguments for an appeal for about 45 minutes on Wednesday morning.

Security was tight around the Supreme Court with at least 10 police trucks patrolling the area and plain-clothed officers also on duty, witnesses said.

The prison court conducting the main trial last month barred all but one of Aung San Suu Kyi’s four defence witnesses, but a separate court in Rangoon earlier this month ruled that she could call one more person to testify.

The two still-barred witnesses who are the subject of the appeal are Win Tin, a journalist and Burma’s longest-serving political prisoner until his release in September, and detained deputy NLD leader Tin Oo.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s main trial has been adjourned until June 26.

She faces up to five years in jail if convicted, as does American John Yettaw, who used a pair of homemade flippers to swim across a lake to her house.

Western diplomats in Rangoon have said a string of delayed court dates is a sign that the ruling generals are seeking to stall the proceedings in a bid to fend off vehement worldwide criticism of the trial.

In Geneva, UN human rights investigators issued fresh condemnation of the trial, saying overnight that the junta was allowing ”flagrant” rights violations in the proceedings.

Media should be granted full access to the hearings and relevant witnesses should be able to testify, the five independent UN specialists said in a joint statement.

”So far, the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi and her aides has been marred by flagrant violations of substantive and procedural rights,” said Leandro Despouy, UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.

United States President Barack Obama has described the case as a ”show trial” while many of Burma’s Asian neighbours have broken their usual silence on the country’s internal matters to condemn the charges against Aung San Suu Kyi.

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

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