Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Diplomats and journalists allowed access to Suu Kyi trial

by Mungpi

New Delhi (Mizzima) - In a surprise move, Burmese authorities on Wednesday allowed 30 foreign diplomats and ten journalists into the special court in Insein Prison, prompting defense counsels of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to label the proceedings a “half-open court”.

Though the motivation behind permitting the foreign diplomats and journalists into the courtroom remains unclear, Nyan Win, one of the defense counsels and spokesperson for the NLD, said, “We welcome the move, and would like to see more openness.”

He said authorities on Monday rejected their appeal to conduct the trial in an open court but that the admittance of the diplomats on Wednesday is certainly an improvement.

After the court session, three diplomats – a Russian, Thai and Singaporean – were invited for a special meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, Nyan Win added.

For the ten journalists – five local representatives of foreign news outlets and five local journalists – they have to thank their luck as the authorities selected them in a lucky-draw.

One of the stringers for a foreign news outlet who was among the ten journalists allowed inside the courtroom said he is not sure whether any journalists would be allowed in again for the next hearing fixed for Thursday.

He said they were unable to talk to Aung San Suu Kyi separately and were banned from carrying recorders and cameras. They were only able to talk to the diplomats, who, like them, were allowed inside the courtroom.

“Aung San Suu Kyi looks good, composed and steady. We could see her but could not talk to her,” the correspondent said.

Speedy trial

With the next hearing fixed for May 21, Thursday, Nyan Win said the trial is being conducted on a day-to-day basis, indicating the authority’s desire not to prolong the case.

“We can say that the trial is being conducted in a speedy manner,” said Nyan Win, adding that if the trial is being conducted at this speed, the court could come to a verdict by three weeks’ time.

He said there are 20 witnesses that the prosecution has submitted, out of which eight have thus far been cross examined.

Lesser security apparatus

Nyan Win said, strangely, security around Insein Prison on Wednesday was less visible, though the roads remained blocked with barbwire barricades.

“I did not see many security forces on our way to Insein, but I think the security personnel are in plainclothes and are mostly keeping away from the main road,” he speculated.

Demand for open court trial

The NLD, Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, meanwhile issued a statement on Wednesday demanding public access to the court.

The party, in its statement, argues that the junta’s laws permit trials to be conducted under public scrutiny.

“Plainly, we reject this trial. But if the trial is to be continued, it should done in an open court where the people can gain access,” Win Tin, veteran journalist and central committee member of the NLD, told Mizzima.

Meanwhile, a correspondent of a foreign news service who was allowed access to the court on Wednesday said it is good that media personnel were allowed in but that the junta should think of opening up the court still further.

“As a citizen of Burma, I would like to see more openness and transparency in the trial,” he said.

But, he continued, it is uncertain whether the junta would allow any diplomats or journalists to enter the court on Thursday.

“Though there hasn’t been any notice, I will still wait outside of the prison. Maybe they will allow us to enter again like today,” he added.

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