Sunday, May 24, 2009

Suu Kyi lawyers prepare defence in Myanmar trial

YANGON (AFP) – Lawyers for Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi said Sunday they were preparing to open the defence case this week after she pleaded innocent at her trial by the ruling junta.

The prison tribunal enters its second week on Monday, hearing charges that the Nobel Peace Prize winner breached the terms of her house arrest after an American man swam to her lakeside home and spent two days there.

Nyan Win, a spokesman for her National League for Democracy (NLD) party and also part of her legal team, said the prosecution was expected to call final witnesses early next week.

"We expect to begin our defence case this coming week," Nyan Win told AFP. "Now we are preparing a witness list and are preparing what we need for tomorrow (Monday)."

He said he expected it would take another two weeks for a verdict to be reached at the trial, which is being held at the notorious Insein prison near Yangon where Aung San Suu Kyi is being held.

"We will win according to the law. Whether she is released or not is another matter," Nyan Win said.

The latest, six-year period of Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest is due to expire on Wednesday and the military regime has not yet said whether it will extend it.

The ailing 63-year-old was taken from her home to prison earlier this month.

She has already spent most of the last 19 years in detention and critics say the charges against her, under which she faces a jail term of up to five years, are an excuse for the junta to keep her locked up ahead of elections next year.

"I don't see that the authorities will extend her detention (at her house) again. They cannot extend it by law," he said, adding that under Myanmar's security laws people can only be held for five years under house arrest.

On Friday Nyan Win quoted her as saying: "I have no guilt as I didn't commit any crime."

The prosecution case centres on her allegedly allowing US national John Yettaw to stay at her home for two days after the bizarre incident earlier this month in which he swam to her home.

Yettaw has said in the trial that he wanted to warn Aung San Suu Kyi that she would be assassinated. He brought a number of unusual objects to her house including two black shawls for Muslim women.

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