Saturday, August 15, 2009

Suu Kyi Remains Upbeat Says Her Lawyer

The Irrawaddy News

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was positive and cheerful after returning to her Inya Lake residence, one of her lawyers, Kyi Wynn, told The Irrawaddy on Friday.

“She was not dejected and I was surprised to see that, on the contrary, she appeared cheerful and was laughing,” the lawyer said.

Suu Kyi met with her lawyers on Wednesday around the dining table in her lakeside house, he said, adding that Suu Kyi appeared upbeat as she spoke of the trial.

Suu Kyi knew the verdict would be “guilty,” but was not upset and showed no signs of bitterness, Kyi Wynn said.

However, the Burmese pro-democracy leader had expressed surprise that the regime had revived a “dead constitution” in order to implicate her, he said, in reference to the 1974 constitution which is officially invalid since a new constitution was approved last year.

Kyi Wynn previously said that Suu Kyi had privately told him that the charges against her were invalid as she was charged under the 1975 State Security law, which was annulled by the 2008 constitution.

During the trial, Suu Kyi told her lawyers that she and her defense team were facing a “crisis of constitution.” Suu Kyi was referring to a 1975 law enacted under the 1974 constitution, which became invalidated when the military seized power in 1988.

In addition, under the junta’s “seven-step road map,” the country approved a new constitution in May 2008 by national referendum, which would also invalidate the 1975 act.

Kyi Wynn said that the regime had revived the 1974 constitution in order to charge Suu Kyi, and claimed that the old constitution was null and void.

The lawyer also said that the defense team was surprised to learn that Snr-Gen Than Shwe’s letter to the court was dated and issued on the August 10th and not on August 11th, the day the judge read out the final verdict.

Suu Kyi initially received a three-year prison sentence, but that was immediately commuted to 18 months under house arrest when Home Affairs Minister Maung Oo read out Than Shwe’s letter to the courtroom announcing his decision to cut her three-year sentence in half.

The suspended sentence was also applied to the verdict against Suu Kyi’s two companions, Win Ma Ma and Khin Khin Win.

Suu Kyi is now a prisoner again in her own house, but her lawyer said that she is preparing to appeal.

“Suu Kyi wants to appeal and she is correct,” he said. “But the chances of success are very slim—she was convicted even before she was arrested.”

Kyi Wynn likened the house arrest restrictions imposed on Suu Kyi to keeping a child in a boarding school.

The restrictions against the opposition leader and her two companions are:

-*- they must only live in Suu Kyi’s 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.

“Suu Kyi doesn’t usually watch television, but is an avid reader and spends most of her time reading books during her house arrest,” the lawyer said.

When asked whether they could bring her foreign newspapers and magazines, her lawyers were told that all materials must be submitted to the authorities for screening.

Her lawyers have also noticed that local security forces and the police have elevated the watchtower which overlooks Suu Kyi’s compound. Another noticeable change at her home since she was detained in May is that all the bushes have been cleared.

Suu Kyi is aware of the outpouring of support and the international reaction to the verdict against her, said the lawyer.

“But she is always looking forward to a dialogue,” Kyi Wynn added.

When asked about China’s stance toward Burma and Suu Kyi, the lawyer warned that China is playing with fire.

Political observers have said that because of the highly publicized trial and the international attention that she received during the trial, Suu Kyi’s status is strengthened both inside and outside Burma and that she has gained a stronger position in Burmese politics than before.

“She was almost forgotten [before the trial],” a diplomat in Rangoon said, adding that the irony is the regime has promoted her status and international standing.

Suu Kyi has already spent nearly 14 of the past 20 years under house arrest, although Tuesday’s conviction was the first time she has been found guilty of any offense.

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