Monday, May 18, 2009

Unfair Law and No freedom to hear on Aung San Suu kyi charge

The trial of Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung

San Suu Kyi has opened at a notorious prison near Rangoon , where she is charged with breaching the terms of her house arrest, a local official says.

The 63-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner was charged last Thursday in connection with a bizarre incident earlier this month in which an American man swam to her lakeside house and stayed there for two days.

"The trial has started," the official told AFP, without giving any more details.

DPA reported that Suu Kyi's lead attorney, Kyi Win, had arrived at Rangoon's Insein Prison, where a special court has been set up to try Suu Kyi; her two house helpers, Khin Khin Win and Win Ma Ma; and American John William Yettaw.

A car from the US embassy was also seen entering the prison compound, witnesses said.

Journalists and the public were not allowed into the compound.

Roads leading to the jail were blocked to traffic and the public on Monday morning to prevent public protests against the trial, which could result in another five-year jail sentence for Suu Kyi, who has spent 13 of the past 19 years in detention.

Suu Kyi would plead not guilty to the charge of breaking the terms of her house detention, which was due to expire May 27, Kyi Win said.

Authorities on Friday rejected a request for another prominent Burma lawyer, Aung Thein, to join Suu Kyi's defence team.

The trial was expected to take several days, if not weeks, because prosecutors have called more than 22 witnesses, sources said.

It was widely expected that Suu Kyi, the recipient of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize , would be found guilty.

"Given the junta's record to date, it is highly doubtful justice will be served," said Jared Genser, an expert on Suu Kyi's case at the US-based Freedom Now, an advocacy group for political prisoners.

Police have accused Suu Kyi and her two live-in servants of breaking the State Protection Act for allowing Yettaw, 53, to swim to Suu Kyi's Rangoon compound on May 3 and stay there until the morning of May 6, when he was arrested while swimming in Inya Lake away from the house.

Prosecutors were expected to argue that Yettaw, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, had first illegally entered Suu Kyi's house on November 30 when he passed the church's Book of Mormon to her servants for Suu Kyi to read.

Although Suu Kyi's doctor informed authorities of Yettaw's uninvited visit last year, no action was taken against the man and he was allowed another tourist visa to re-enter the country this month, sources said.

The junta's critics accused it of using Yettaw as a pretext to keep Suu Kyi in jail during a political sensitive period leading up to a general election planned for next year.

Suu Kyi leads the National League for Democracy, which won the 1990 general election by a landslide but has been blocked from taking power by Burma's ruling military junta for the past 19 years.

If found guilty of the latest charges, she is likely to be kept at a special guesthouse in Insein Prison.

Suu Kyi's trial and pending sentence have ignited widespread protests from the world community, including US President Barack Obama , United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon , the European Union and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in neighbouring Thailand.

"The real question is how the world will react," Freedom Now's Gensar said. "Will it do more than simply condemn the junta's actions?"

There have been calls on the UN Security Council to call an emergency meeting on Burma in light of the new charge against Suu Kyi.

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