Suu Kyi verdict set for Friday

July 28, 2009 12:00 am

, YANGON, Jul 28 – A court in military-ruled Myanmar will deliver its verdict in the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi on Friday, on charges that could see the democracy leader jailed for up to five years, her lawyer said.

Myanmar’s junta has sparked international outrage for prosecuting the Nobel peace laureate for breaching the rules of her house arrest after an American man swam uninvited to her lakeside house in May.

"The verdict will be given this coming Friday. We are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst," defence lawyer Nyan Win told AFP Tuesday after the trial wrapped up with a final reply by Suu Kyi’s legal team.

Judges Thaung Nyunt and Nyi Nyi Soe indicated to the court at the notorious Insein prison in Yangon, where Suu Kyi is being held, that sentencing was expected on the same day, Nyan Win said.

"We have a good chance according to the law, but we cannot know what the court will decide because this is a political case," said Nyan Win, who is also the spokesman for her National League for Democracy.

"If she is released unconditionally she will be home on that day — if not, the sentence will be together with the verdict."

The verdict is widely expected to be a guilty one given the previous form of Myanmar’s courts, which have handed down heavy sentences to dozens of dissidents over the past year.

But the Suu Kyi case has been repeatedly delayed since it started on May 18 amid signs that the regime is trying to quell the storm of international outrage over its treatment of the opposition leader.

U2 singer Bono publicly announced during a concert in Dublin on Monday that Suu Kyi had been named Amnesty International’s ambassador of conscience for 2009, the rights group’s highest honour.

Diplomats from Thailand, Japan, Singapore and the United States attended Tuesday’s hearing, a Myanmar official said on condition of anonymity. Most of the trial has taken place behind closed doors.

Critics have accused the junta of trying to keep Suu Kyi locked up ahead of elections next year, and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led calls for her release at an Asian security conference last week.

Suu Kyi has been in jail or under house arrest for 13 of the last 19 years since the junta refused to recognise the NLD’s landslide victory in Myanmar’s last national elections, in 1990.

The court made the announcement about the verdict after hearing final comments by lawyers for Suu Kyi, her two female aides and US national John Yettaw, in response to closing statements delivered by prosecutors on Monday.

All face similar sentences.

Her lawyers say that she was not responsible for the intrusion by Yettaw — who has said that he was inspired by a divine vision that she would be assassinated — and that she was charged under outdated laws.

But Myanmar’s rulers have strongly defended the trial.

State media on Tuesday made the strongest suggestions yet that Yettaw was an agent of an outside power, possibly the United States, and was trying to smuggle Suu Kyi out of detention.

The New Light of Myanmar newspaper said the trial "has not been intentionally created by the government" but was the fault of Yettaw, who "might have been sent to the country by an anonymous country or organisation".

"The aim of his meeting with Daw Suu Kyi has not been known clearly. He even left two chadors (Muslim shawls) and dark sunglasses to her to act herself in disguise. Was it aimed at taking her out of the house?" it said.

The newspaper also pointed out that the route Yettaw used to enter her house was the "ditch beside the US embassy" and said the place he was arrested was 25 yards (metres) from the house of the US charge d’affaires.

"So there are many points to ponder," the editorial said.


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