Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Inside the Courtroom


At 10 a.m. word was out that at least 30 reporters and several international diplomats were to be allowed to witness the final day’s proceedings at Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial.

Although cameras and mobile phones were prohibited inside the courtroom, security personnel were on hand to video everyone entering.

The “special court” inside the prison compound had been elaborately and garishly decorated for the occasion. It looked like the Vaudeville Theater with the invited guests seated on red chairs staring at a stage framed in garish yellow curtains.

The court convened at 10:45 a.m. when John W Yettaw, who has been receiving medical treatment recently for a stroke, was led into the court wearing a blue and white long-sleeved shirt and milk-colored trousers.

Aung San Suu Kyi entered the court at 10:50 a.m. She was wearing a traditional pink blouse and a brown sarong. She looked pale and rather frail. As soon as she came in, she offered a few words of thanks to the diplomats for coming to the trial, and apologized for being late. Her companions Khin Khin Win and Win Ma Ma followed her in.

At 11 a.m., the judges began reading out the case history of John W Yettaw. They concluded with the verdict: for violating the Immigration Act, he was sentenced to three years in prison with hard labor. For violating the Municipal Act which prohibits swimming in Inya Lake, he was sentenced to one year in prison with hard labor.

The judges then turned to the case of Aung San Suu Kyi and everyone in the courtroom maintained a heavy silence. The diplomats and journalists concentrated intently. Suu Kyi’s lawyers stood up to pay respect to the court. The Lady also stood up for a short while. Her mood was calm. Yettaw, on the other hand, sat forlorn with his head bowed, although his lawyer was standing.

The judge proceeded to read out the case history. It took quite some time. He concluded by stating that it was incorrect to assert that the 1974 constitution had been abolished; it is still in effect. Therefore, he said, Aung San Suu Kyi, Khin Khin Win and Win Ma Ma were each sentenced to three years in prison with hard labor under Section 22 of the Law to Safeguard the State against Dangers of Those Desiring to Cause Subversive Acts (1975).

Yettaw was also sentenced to another three years in prison for violating Section 22 of the same act.

After reading out the verdicts, the mood among the diplomats became anxious and agitated, but the judges left the courtroom immediately.

Then, while Suu Kyi was talking to her lawyers and preparing to leave the courtroom, Minister for Home Affairs Maj-Gen Maung Oo walked in and announced that he had a prepared statement that the diplomats and journalists might like to hear.

He read out an order by Snr-Gen Than Shwe stating that if the court found Suu Kyi guilty, he would reduce the sentence in half and suspend it. If she would live “well” at her Inya Lake home under the restrictions imposed on her, she would be granted amnesty before her suspended sentence had expired.

He stated that the restrictions that Aung San Suu Kyi, Khin Khin Win and Win Ma Ma must follow are:

*- they must live in her residence located on University Avenue;
*- they are only allowed to go out into the house’s yard;
*- they can get access to doctors and nurses for health reasons;
*- Suu Kyi can meet guests in accordance with permission from the authorities concerned;
*- she can watch local TV channels such as Myawaddy and MRTV (Myanmar Radio and Television),
*- as well as local newspapers and journals;
*- and she can request paper if she needs to write something.

Apart from the above restrictions,
*- if she wants to do something, she can do it if she gets permission from the authorities concerned,
*- and she must live under these restrictions for the next 18 months,
Maung Oo said.

Despite looking weak, Suu Kyi’s eyes were as bright as ever as she greeted the diplomats. Everyone filtered out the courtroom at 12:30.

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