/ 27 July 2009

Court hears final arguments in Suu Kyi case

The internationally condemned trial of Burma’s democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi neared its climax on Monday as lawyers for her two female aides gave their closing arguments at a prison court.

The detained Nobel peace laureate (64) faces five years in jail on charges of violating her house arrest over a bizarre incident in which an American man, John Yettaw, swam uninvited to her lakeside home in Rangoon in May.

Her lawyers gave final statements on Friday, and on Monday lawyers spoke for Khin Khin Win and Win Ma Ma, two assistants who lived with her at the property and face similar charges, a Burma official said.

Yettaw’s lawyers are set to deliver closing arguments later on Monday to the court at Rangoon’s notorious Insein prison — where all four defendants are being held — followed by the prosecution, the official said.

Nyan Win, one of Suu Kyi’s lawyers, said that Suu Kyi’s legal team were then expected to have a chance to reply after that but that it could be ”two or three weeks” until a verdict comes.

Diplomats from the United States, Japan, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia and the Philippines were allowed to attend Monday’s hearing. Most of the trial has taken place behind closed doors.

The trial has unleashed a storm of international outrage, with critics saying Burma’s ruling junta is using the charges as an excuse to keep Suu Kyi locked up for elections promised by the regime next year.

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

Burma’s state media on Sunday hit back at US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who called for Suu Kyi’s release at when she appeared at Asia’s biggest security forum last week, held in Thailand.

Clinton had warned that Burma was possibly receiving nuclear technology from North Korea, although she also held out the carrot of increased US investment if it frees the opposition leader.

”This is really interfering with Asean’s [the Association of Southeast Asian Nations] internal affairs,” said the state-run Myanma Ahlin newspaper.

”If Asean obeys the US secretary of state, Asean will be under the US’s influence,” the comment piece said.

Nyan Win, also a spokesperson for Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, said on Friday that the legal team welcomed calls for her release from foreign ministers at the Thailand meeting.

He said the opposition leader’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.

But he said that Suu Kyi was displeased that the prosecution was effectively getting extra time to prepare its arguments.

Both Suu Kyi and her lawyers have previously accused the court of bias. The prosecution was allowed to call 14 witnesses while she was allowed only two, and one of those only after an appeal to the Supreme Court. — AFP