Sat, Jul 25, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Aung San Suu Kyi trial at final stage

‘DISREGARD FOR THE LAW’: The junta is paying no heed to international calls to free Suu Kyi. Riot police were on guard yesterday as her secretive trial continued

REUTERS AND AP , YANGON, MYANMAR

A court in army-ruled Myanmar yesterday heard closing arguments for the defense in the trial on ­security-related charges of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and the prosecution will have its say next week.

Suu Kyi’s lawyer, Nyan Win, told reporters that the hearing had ended and prosecutors would put their final arguments on Monday. He did not know when a verdict would be given.

Nobel laureate Suu Kyi, 64, faces five years in prison if found guilty of breaking a draconian security law that protects the state from “subversive elements.”

There have been no indications from the junta that it would heed international calls to free her.

Suu Kyi is charged with violating the terms of her house arrest by harboring an uninvited American man who swam to her lakeside home and stayed for two days.

“She was well and in good spirits,” a diplomat said on condition of anonymity, citing diplomatic protocol. diplomat. “She was seen joking with her lawyers.”

The verdict is expected sometime next month, and Suu Kyi faces up to five years in prison, the diplomat said.

The lawyer of the American visitor, 53-year-old John Yettaw, will also present a statement on Monday. Yettaw was charged with trespassing.

The defense has not contested the facts of the case but argues that the relevant law has been misapplied by the authorities and that Suu Kyi was charged under a constitution abolished two decades ago. They also assert that the security guards who ensure Suu Kyi remained inside her compound should be held responsible for any intrusion on her property.

Security was tight around Insein prison — where Suu Kyi is being held and the trial is ongoing — with roads blocked with barbed wire barricades manned by police. Seven truckloads of riot police were deployed around the compound and pro-government supporters were seen gathering near the area.

Diplomats from Britain, France, Germany, Norway and Italy who had earlier requested access were allowed into the courtroom for Friday’s session, a diplomat said on condition of anonymity. It was the third time during the mostly closed-door trial that such access has been granted.

The resumption of the trial came after US, European and Asian officials — including the top diplomat from Myanmar — wound up a conference on Thursday in neighboring Thailand that put Myanmar’s human rights record in the spotlight.

The trial has drawn condemnation from the international community and Suu Kyi’s local supporters, who worry the ruling junta has found an excuse to keep her behind bars through elections planned for next year.

At an Asia-Pacific security forum on Thursday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered Myanmar the prospect of better relations with the US, but said that depended in part on the fate of Suu Kyi.

Myanmar state media rejected the criticism on Thursday, accusing those calling for Suu Kyi’s release of “interference.”

“Demanding release of Daw Suu Kyi means showing reckless disregard for the law,” said the editorial in the English-language New Light of Myanmar, the military junta’s mouthpiece. “Daw” is a term of respect in Myanmar.

Also on trial, and facing the same charges as Suu Kyi, are two female members of her political party who were her sole companions under house arrest.

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