Thu, Jul 30, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Myanmar warns against predicting Suu Kyi verdict

AP , YANGON, MYANMAR

A day after democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi murmured in court that the verdict in her trial was already “painfully obvious,” Myanmar’s state-run media warned yesterday that any predictions of the outcome would amount to contempt of court.

On Tuesday, lawyers gave their closing arguments in the high-profile proceedings against Suu Kyi, who is accused of violating the terms of her house arrest by harboring an American who swam uninvited to her lakeside home and stayed for two days. The 64-year-old Nobel Peace laureate faces a jail term of five years.

She is widely expected to be convicted, although there has been speculation she may serve her sentence under house arrest rather than in jail.

Also being tried on the same charges are American John William Yettaw, 53, of Falcon, Missouri, and two female members of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party who were her sole companions under house arrest.

The New Light of Myanmar, a mouthpiece of the military regime, said “biased writings about the trial in progress, writings about which side will win or lose in that trial, or predicting possibility of the defendants’ convictions amount to contempt of court.”

“Everyone who breaches the law shall face a lawsuit and obey the court decision,” the report said.

Suu Kyi, in turn, has complained through her lawyer that articles in the state-run press — which have stressed that the trial did not involve politics but simply a breach of the law — amounted to influencing the court’s decision.

The trial, which began in May, has drawn international condemnation from rights activists, world leaders and celebrities who have called for her immediate release. On Tuesday, President Barack Obama renewed sanctions against the junta, including a ban on imports of jade and other gems from Myanmar.

But neither outside pressure nor the possibility of closer ties with the West has deterred the ruling junta, which appeared determined to find her guilty and keep her behind bars through elections planned for next year.

The Thai government said yesterday that Myanmar had asked Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to postpone a trip scheduled tomorrow. Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said the planned trip coincided with the court verdict but did not elaborate.

Judge Thaung Nyunt said on Tuesday that the court would make a ruling today, according to defense attorney Nyan Win. The lawyer said he preferred not to speculate on the outcome, but that he had “never seen any defendant in a political case [in Myanmar] being set free.”

He did not directly say Suu Kyi’s trial was politically motivated.

Suu Kyi — who has been in detention for 14 of the past 20 years — told diplomats attending the court session that she was not optimistic.

“I’m afraid the verdict will be painfully obvious,” Suu Kyi said, according to several diplomats who heard her comments in court.

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