Saturday, May 16, 2009

Two Suu Kyi Lawyers Dismissed from Bar

Khin Maung Shein (left), Aung Thein (Photo: AAPP)

The Irrawaddy News

Two of Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyers, Aung Thein and Khin Maung Shein, were dismissed from the country’s bar by the Burmese military on Friday.

“Township magistrate officer U Aung Soe and some local authorities came and gave an order in which we are dismissed from the Burmese lawyer’s list,” Aung Thein told The Irrawaddy on Saturday.

Attorney Aung Thein confirmed on Saturday that he had been dismissed on Friday, a day after he had applied to represent Suu Kyi in her latest trial, which is set to begin on Monday.

Aung Thein has defended political activists in the past and was recently jailed for four months for contempt of court because of his strong advocacy on his clients’ behalf.

“The dismissal is not fair to us,” Aung Thein said. “We have served four months (in detention for contempt to the court).”

In November, Aung Thein and his close associate Khin Maung Shein were both sentenced to four months imprisonment for contempt of court. The authorities were prejudiced against lawyers who have defended political activists, said Aung Thein.

Their past clients include the prominent Buddhist monk Gambira, who was sentenced to prison following his leadership of the “Saffron Uprising” in 2007. Aung Thein ultimately resigned from that case, complaining that he was had not been allowed to prepare a proper defense.

U Aung Thein is a lawyer associated with Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy’s (NLD) legal advisory team.

On Thursday, authorities barred Aung Thein from entering Insein Prison where Suu Kyi is being detained. Kyi Win was allowed inside the prison.

The Thailand-based human rights group, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) (AAPP), released a statement on Saturday saying Aung Thein had his license to practice law revoked by the authorities on grounds that he did not abide by professional ethics.

In a statement, the AAPP said the action was a blatant attempt to damage the defense of Suu Kyi and her two caretakers and represents a pattern of harassment against lawyers who defend pro-democracy activists. There are currently eleven lawyers in prison across the country on charges associated with defense of activists.

Suu Kyi was charged on Thursday with violating the terms of her house arrest after her home was invaded by an American, John William Yettaw, 53, who also faces trial on charges he violated internal security laws.

Meanwhile, the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize committee called for Suu Kyi’s immediate release.

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

The charges against Suu Kyi are widely seen as a pretext for the ruling junta to keep Suu Kyi detained beyond the 2010 national election, part of the junta’s so-called "roadmap to democracy," which has been criticized as a ploy for the military regime to remain in power.

Despite sharp criticism and economic sanctions by the US, Europe and other countries, Burma’s generals have enjoyed the support of China and other Asian nations. They invariably march to their own tune and are likely to do so again in the prosecution of Suu Kyi, who they regard as their No 1 enemy.

The charges against Suu Kyi carry a penalty range of three to five years imprisonment.

Chronology of Suu Kyi and the ‘Inya Lake Swimmer’


May 1 - Burmese military authorities reject an appeal to release Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest.

May 2 - American John William Yettaw arrives in Rangoon on a tourist visa.

May 3 - Yettaw swims across Inya Lake to Suu Kyi’s house.

May 6 - Yettaw is fished out of the lake by police and arrested.

May 7 - State-run media report that a US citizen swam to Suu Kyi’s house and stayed for three days; More than 20 police briefly enter Suu Kyi’s compound; Suu Kyi’s lawyer announces that she is “not safe”; Dr Tin Myo Win is refused entry to the compound and is then arrested.

May 8 - Dr Pyone Mo Ei pays Suu Kyi a medical visit for about 2 hours.

May 11 - Dr Pyone Mo Ei revisits Suu Kyi and administers an intravenous drip.

May 13 - US embassy officials meet with Yettaw for three minutes at an interrogation center in Rangoon.

May 14 - Suu Kyi and her two “companions” are arrested and transferred to Insein prison where they are detained in a guest house within the jail’s compound; Suu Kyi, her two companions and Yettaw are charged; Suu Kyi’s lawyer announces she is to be tried on May 18; State-run newspapers publish a biography of Yettaw.

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