Thursday, May 28, 2009

Last Witness Speaks at Suu Kyi's Trial

The Irrawaddy News

RANGOON (AP)— The sole witness allowed for pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi defended her innocence Thursday, the last chance to speak before closing arguments Monday in a trial that could send the Nobel Peace laureate to prison for five years.

Kyi Win, a legal expert and member of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party, argued there was no legal basis to the charge that Suu Kyi had violated the terms of her house arrest when an American secretly swam to her home.

Prosecutors seemed very unhappy at his testimony, Kyi Win told reporters outside the courtroom. Reporters had not been allowed inside.

Suu Kyi's defense team has conceded most of the basic facts of the case—that 53-year-old John W. Yettaw swam to and sneaked into her lakeside home, where he stayed for two days.

But Suu Kyi has pleaded not guilty, and her lawyers insist it was the duty of government guards outside her closely watched property to prevent any intrusions.

The court at Rangoon's Insein Prison rejected three other defense witnesses Wednesday. It had approved 23 prosecution witnesses, and 14 of them testified.

The court will recess for Friday and hear closing arguments from both sides on Monday, Kyi Win said.

Lawyers will meet with their clients Saturday.

Two female party members who live with Suu Kyi, and Yettaw, face the same charge as Suu Kyi and have also pleaded not guilty.

The brisk trial has drawn outrage from the international community and Suu Kyi's local supporters, who worry that the military junta has found an excuse to keep her detained through next year's elections.

Her years-long house arrest had been due to end Wednesday, but the American's bizarre visit this month brought her arrest instead.

A Foreign Ministry statement, carried Thursday in state-owned newspapers, said the trial "will not have any political impact."

"The government, therefore, will hold multiparty general elections, fifth step of the Road Map, in 2010," the statement said, referring to the junta's "road map to democracy," which critics say will merely extend the military's decades-long, largely unpopular rule under the guise of democracy.

Burma has been under military rule since 1962, even though Suu Kyi's party won the 1990 general election.

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