Saturday, May 16, 2009

Myanmar bars lawyer from Suu Kyi trial

YANGON, MYANMAR (Times of India): Myanmar's military rulers disbarred a prominent lawyer who applied to defend pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in her
upcoming trial, the attorney said on Saturday.

Suu Kyi, who was taken from her home Thursday by police, faces a possible five-year prison term for allegedly violating terms of her house arrest by sheltering an American man who swam across a lake to her home.

Her latest arrest has sparked a storm of international appeals to Myanmar's junta to free the 63-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner and to restore democracy in the country, which has been under military rule since 1962.

Despite mounting international protests, the junta appears ready to begin the trial Monday at Insein Prison, where Suu Kyi is being held along with two assistants who have lived with her.

Lawyer Aung Thein said Saturday that he was dismissed from the country's Bar Council on Friday, a day after he applied to represent Suu Kyi. He has defended political activists in the past and was earlier jailed for four months for contempt of court.

Suu Kyi was charged Thursday with violating the terms of her house arrest after being visited by American John William Yettaw, 53, who also faces trial.

Suu Kyi has already spent 13 of the last 19 years in detention without trial for her nonviolent promotion of democracy. She had been scheduled to be freed May 27 after six consecutive years of house arrest but now faces up to five years in prison if convicted, according to one of her lawyers, Hla Myo Myint.

He and another lawyer represented her at the arraignment, but Suu Kyi had asked for three other defense lawyers, including Aung Thein.

President Barack Obama extended for another year a state of emergency regarding Myanmar that maintains sanctions against the military-run country.

In a message to the U.S. Congress sent Friday, Obama said that a ``crisis'' between the United States and Myanmar `has not been resolved.'

The Norwegian committee that propelled Suu Kyi into the world spotlight by awarding her the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 called for her immediate release.

``Her recent detention in prison is totally unacceptable. She has done nothing wrong,'' said a statement from the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which rarely comments on past laureates.

The charges are widely seen as a pretext for the ruling junta to keep Suu Kyi detained past elections it has scheduled for next year as the culmination of a ``roadmap to democracy,'' which has been criticized as a fig leaf for continued military control.

But despite sharp criticism and sanctions in the past, Myanmar's generals, who enjoy the support of China and other Asian nations, have invariably marched to their own tune and are likely to do so in the case of Suu Kyi, who they regard as their No. 1 enemy.

Exactly why Yettaw, of Falcon, Missouri, swam across the lake to see Suu Kyi remains unclear. He is also under arrest and to be tried for violating the security cordon around Suu Kyi's house.

His wife, Betty Yettaw, described her husband as eccentric but peace-loving and `not political at all.'

According to his ex-wife Yvonne Yettaw, he said he went to Asia to work on a psychology paper about forgiveness.

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