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Myanmar delays Suu Kyi verdict to 11 August

Myanmar delays Suu Kyi verdict to 11 August
AFP
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First Published: Fri, Jul 31 2009. 12 39 PM IST
Updated: Fri, Jul 31 2009. 12 39 PM IST
Yangon: A Myanmar court on Friday postponed the verdict in the high-profile trial of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to 11 August, her lawyer said.
Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace prize winner who has spent 14 of the past 20 years in detention, is charged under Section 22 of a law protecting the state from “subversive elements”. A guilty verdict had been widely expected on Friday.
“The judge adjourned the trial until 11 August. He didn’t elaborate on the reason why,” lawyer Nyan Win told Reuters.
A diplomatic source who attended the proceedings said the verdict was delayed “because of the need to interpret legal terms relating to the 1974 constitution”.
The charges stem from a bizarre incident in May when an American intruder, John Yettaw, swam across Inya lake to Suu Kyi’s home, where he stayed uninvited for two days. Prosecutors said this breached the terms of her house arrest.
Yettaw told the court in May he had been “sent by God” to warn Suu Kyi she was going to be assassinated.
Nyan Win said Suu Kyi was cheerful during Friday’s brief court session and had told him the adjournment was “typical”.
Benjamin Zawacki, a Myanmar specialist for Amnesty International, said the repeated adjournments were orchestrated by the junta to make the court appear fair and impartial.
“It’s very suspicious since most courts wouldn’t take this long,” he said. “We knew the verdict was decided long ago. This is clearly political and not legal.”
Guilty Verdict Expected
Suu Kyi’s legal team has argued that she should be acquitted because the law she is charged under was part of the 1974 constitution, which is no longer in use.
The prosecution, however, says the charges are relevant because the 1974 constitution was still in force when Suu Kyi’s latest period of house arrest commenced in 2003.
The courts routinely favour the military junta, which has ruled Myanmar with an iron hand since a 1962 coup. Verdicts were also postponed for Yettaw and two women who live with Suu Kyi and who face charges similar to hers.
Suu Kyi faces five years in prison if found guilty. Yettaw is charged with immigration offences and for the municipal violation of swimming in a non-swimming area.
Myanmar could improve ties with the United States, which has long imposed sanctions on Myanmar, if it released Suu Kyi, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at a regional security forum earlier this month in Thailand.
But neither Western sanctions nor a strategy of engagement by Myanmar’s neighbours in Southeast Asia has achieved much over the years. Burma occupies a strategic place between Asian powers India and China and both have been reluctant to apply pressure on the generals.
In Washington on Thursday, President Barack Obama and his Philippine counterpart, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, voiced concern about Myanmar’s human rights record.
Opponents of Myanmar’s military government say the trial is an attempt to keep Suu Kyi in detention before and during elections next year, which they say will be a sham intended to legitimise the regime.
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First Published: Fri, Jul 31 2009. 12 39 PM IST