/ 24 July 2009

Suu Kyi lawyers hail foreign support as trial winds up

Lawyers for Burma democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi hailed international calls for her release on Friday as they gave closing arguments at her trial in a bid to prevent her being jailed for five years.

The detained Nobel Peace laureate faces charges of breaching the terms of her house arrest over a bizarre incident in which an American man swam uninvited to her lakeside home in Rangoon in May.

Foreign ministers attending Asia’s biggest security conference in Thailand this week urged the junta to release Suu Kyi (64), with United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dangling the carrot of future business ties.

Her trial resumed on Friday after weeks of delays and her lawyers said they gave closing statements to the court at the notorious Insein prison, where Suu Kyi is being held.

”We welcome the international community’s demand [to release Suu Kyi],” Nyan Win, one of her lawyers and also a spokesperson for her National League for Democracy (NLD), said in the party’s first comment on the foreign calls.

He said the opposition icon’s main lawyer, Kyi Win, read out a 30-page final statement at the trial on Friday and her legal team was ”satisfied” with their arguments.

Prosecution lawyers would give closing statements on Monday, as would attorneys for American John Yettaw and for Suu Kyi’s two female aides, who are all also on trial, he said.

”Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said she was not completely satisfied as the other side would get another two days to prepare,” Nyan Win told reporters at party headquarters.

But Suu Kyi was in ”good health” and greeted diplomats from Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Norway who were permitted to attend the trial, most of which has been behind closed doors, he said.

The trial has sparked fierce international condemnation, with critics saying the ruling junta was using the charges as an excuse to keep Suu Kyi locked up for elections next year.

Her trial began just days before the latest period of her house arrest was due to expire, having spent most of the last two decades in detention since the junta refused to recognise her party’s victory in elections in 1990.

Suu Kyi had also called during a meeting with her lawyers on Thursday for the United Nations to say that the elections will not be credible ”if held without starting national reconciliation.”

It was still unclear when a verdict was likely in the case, which began in May.

Security was extremely tight near the jail, witnesses said, with more than 10 police trucks and armed officers manning a barricade by the gates where about 40 NLD supporters had gathered.

Suu Kyi’s lawyers have previously argued that she could not be held responsible for Yettaw’s actions and that she had been charged under a constitution that expired more than two decades ago.

They have also complained that the prosecution has called 14 witnesses while just two have been allowed to take the stand for Suu Kyi.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Burma earlier this month but junta leader Than Shwe did not allow him to meet her, citing the fact that she was on trial.

Burma’s state media rejected the foreign calls for her release as ”interference”.

”Demanding release of Daw Suu Kyi means showing reckless disregard for the law,” said an editorial in the English-language newspaper.

”The court will hand down a reasonable term to her if she is found guilty, and it will release her if she is found not guilty,” it insisted.

The New Light piece also defended elections promised for some time next year after criticism that they would not be credible if political prisoners, including Suu Kyi, were not released and permitted to stand. — AFP