Yangon: Riot police deployed outside Myanmar’s main prison Friday as the trial of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi resumed, a week after the ruling generals blocked efforts by the UN chief to save her from a possible five-year prison term.
The 64-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate is charged with violating the terms of her house arrest by harboring an American man who swam secretly to her lakeside home and stayed for two days.
Khin Moe Moe, a lawyer and a member of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party, was scheduled to appear as a defense witness during Friday’s session, which a Myanmar official said restarted Friday inside Yangon’s Insein prison where Suu Kyi is being held.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The trial has drawn condemnation from the international community and Suu Kyi’s local supporters, who worry the ruling junta has found an excuse to keep her detained through elections planned for next year.
Suu Kyi has been in detention for nearly 14 of the last 20 years, mostly at her Yangon residence.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, on an official visit to Myanmar last Friday and Saturday, failed to gain Suu Kyi’s release or even visit her in prison.
Ban said Myanmar’s junta chief Senior Gen. Than Shwe told him repeatedly that “he really wanted to agree to my request” to see her but because Suu Kyi was on trial he did not want to be seen as interfering with the judicial process or being pressured by the outside world.
“I am deeply disappointed that they have missed a very important opportunity,” Ban said last weekend.
Also being tried on the same charges are two women members of Suu Kyi’s party, who were her sole companions while under house arrest. The American, John Yettaw, 53, of Falcon, Missouri, is charged with trespassing.
The mostly closed-door trial started May 18. The court at first allowed only one of four defense witnesses to take the stand, while approving 23 prosecution witnesses, of whom 14 took the stand, according to Suu Kyi’s lawyers.
On appeal, the Yangon Divisional Court ruled that Khin Moe Moe also could be heard but maintained the disqualification of prominent journalist and former political prisoner Win Tin and party vice chairman Tin Oo, who is under house arrest.
Security around Insein prison was tight as usual with roads leading to the prison blocked with barb-wire barricades manned by police. Truck loads of riot police were also deployed around the prison facility.
About 100 Suu Kyi supporters gathered, as they have during earlier court sessions, to give her support, sitting and standing as close as they could to the prison gates.
The defense has not contested the basic facts of the case but argues the relevant law has been misapplied by the authorities. They also assert that any intrusion was the responsibility of the security forces guarding the house.
Yettaw has pleaded not guilty and explained in court that he had a dream that Suu Kyi would be assassinated and he had gone to warn her. Family and friends have said he was working on a book and wished to interview her.