Friday, May 22, 2009

Burma Court Accepts Case Against Suu Kyi

The Irrawaddy News

RANGOON (AP)— The court trying Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi agreed Friday to accept the charge she violated the terms of her house arrest after an American man swam to and entered her lakeside home.

The court's decision should allow her trial to proceed to a verdict that could see her jailed for up to five years. She has been in detention without trial for more than 13 of the past 19 years.

Suu Kyi's lawyer said presiding judge Thaung Nyunt declared the court accepted the charge after testimony had finished for the day, and asked Suu Kyi if she was guilty.

"I am not guilty. I said I am not guilty because I have not broken any law," she replied, according to her lawyer Nyan Win, who spoke to reporters afterward.

The same charge was also accepted against two women companions who stay with Suu Kyi, and the American, John W. Yettaw. All pleaded not guilty.

Suu Kyi's lawyers have said she asked Yettaw to leave, but allowed him to stay for two days after he said he was too tired and ill to immediately swim back across the lake.

In what her supporters are taking as an ominous sign, authorities have now removed the last of the barriers that were used to maintain roadblocks on either end on the street where her house is located, suggesting she may not be returning home any time soon.

The day she was taken away to prison, the barbed wire barricades on University Avenue were pulled aside, and then hauled away the next day, and the poles that were used to block the road were taken away after dark on Thursday.

Suu Kyi, who is being held and tried at Rangoon's Insein Prison, had been scheduled to be freed May 27 after six consecutive years under house arrest.

The trial was briefly opened to reporters and diplomats Wednesday but otherwise has been closed.

On Thursday, the prosecution showed a video said to have been shot by Yettaw at Suu Kyi's house during his latest visit, according to Nyan Win.

The video had a voice-over narration, apparently by Yettaw, which was translated into the Burmese language in the courtroom. In it, he said he had asked Suu Kyi to pose, but she had refused and looked nervous, so he felt sorry about the matter.

Yettaw on Wednesday also offered the first public clue to the motive for his actions, suggesting in a courtroom exchange that he had a premonition someone would try to kill the pro-democracy leader, according to Nyan Win, who attended the proceedings. He repeated the assertion in court Friday when he pleaded not guilty.

Yettaw, 53, is a part-time contractor from Falcon, Missouri, who became interested in Suu Kyi when he visited neighboring Thailand last year, his family has said.

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