Monday, May 18, 2009

Court rejects appeal for public presence at Suu Kyi trial

by Mungpi

New Delhi (Mizzima) - A special court inside Insein Prison on Monday rejected an appeal by the defense counsel of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to conduct the trial in the public's presence and under the glare of the media.

Nyan Win, spokesperson for the National League for Democracy (NLD), after returning from the court on Monday told Mizzima, “We submitted an appeal to conduct the trial in the public's presence. Though they [authorities] could erect security, we requested to allow the public to hear the proceedings.”

“But the court rejected it,” he said.

Nyan Win, Kyi Win, Hla Myo Myint and Daw Khin Htay Kywe are the four defense counsels trying the case of Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been charged under section 22 of the penal code for breaching the rules of her house arrest.

Detained Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, Khin Win and her daughter – party mates who live with Aung San Suu Kyi and an American man, John William Yettaw, were all charged after Yettaw was arrested on May 6th after allegedly swimming across Inya Lake and entering Aung San Suu Kyi’s tightly guarded lakeside house along Rangoon’s University Avenue.

The trial, which began on Friday, was adjourned on Monday after the prosecution produced a witness, who was subsequently crossed examined by defense counsels, Nyan Win recounted. The next hearing will take place on Tuesday, May 19th.

“I don’t want to comment on the case right now, but what I can say is that the case is proceeding,” Nyan Win said.

Currently, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is being kept in a separate house inside the jail premises. But she remains in good health, Nyan Win remarked.

“She is watched all the time by officials, and I cannot talk to her properly,” he added.

Meanwhile, at least a hundred NLD members along with veteran journalist Win Tin and several civilians waited in front of Insein Prison for news of the proceedings.

Security tightened

Hundreds of riot police and armed soldiers took up position around Insein Prison and have blocked the road leading to the prison with barricades. Additionally, dozens of members of the pro-junta civilian groups Swan Arrshin and Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) were seen taking charge of the roads in other parts of Rangoon, the former capital of Burma.

While the situation remained peaceful, security officials reportedly told the crowd waiting outside Insein Prison to stay calm.

An NLD youth member from Shwe Pyithar Suburban Township, who was distributing black ribbons near Insein bazaar, was arrested by police on Monday morning.

International reaction

As the trial against Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was taking inside Insein Prison, calls and pressure for her immediate release mounted from the international community.

Diplomats from the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, France and Australia on Monday arrived at the Insein Prison gates and requested permission to witness the trial. But security officials barred them from entering.

“I wanted to show my support to Aung San Suu Kyi and her lawyers, and the ambassadors wanted to do so as well. I didn’t think they would allow us inside the prison, but we wanted to be outside the prison anyway,” the diplomat, who wished not to be named, told Mizzima.

The diplomat added, “The general feeling is that we are disturbed about what is happening and what the consequences of the trial might be.”

Meanwhile, Foreign Ministers from the European Union, who are meeting at Brussels, have called for fresh sanctions against Burma’s ruling junta in response to the trial.

The EU in late April had agreed to extend a package of sanctions against some 500 regime figures and their relatives, as well as against some 80 businesses linked to the Burmese regime. But Monday’s meeting indicates that these sanctions could be expanded if Burma refuses to bow to international pressure.

"This is not the moment to lower sanctions, this is the moment to increase them," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana was quoted as saying by the DPA.

Over the weekend, leaders from the United States, the European Union and a few from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), such as the Philippines, called on the Burmese junta to released Aung San Suu Kyi.

Belgium’s Foreign Minister, Karel De Gucht, in a statement on Friday said, “Everything makes me think that the regime is looking for a reason to keep her in detention, and far from any election process.”

Widespread protests

Similarly, activists around the world have raised their voices in protest of the junta’s trial against Burma’s democracy icon.

A group of activists, showing solidarity to the Burmese people and Aung San Suu Kyi in Jakarta, on Monday held a protest march in front of the Burmese embassy calling on the junta to stop the charges against Aung San Suu Kyi and to release her.

In Bangkok, Burmese and Thais activists joined hands in a protest march in front of the Burmese embassy.

And in New Delhi, Burmese activists held a protest in front of the Burmese embassy.

Similar demonstrations were held in various cities across the world, including Washington D.C., London, Tokyo and Sydney.

The NLD youth in a statement released on Monday following the court proceedings said the charge and trial of party leader Aung San Suu Kyi is a ploy by the junta to prolong her detention.

Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained for more than 13 of the past 19 years, is scheduled to complete her current term of detention during last week of May.

Mizzima's reporters contributed to the story

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