Thu 28 May 2009
Filed under: Inside Burma,News
Lawyers for Aung San Suu Kyi, the detained Burmese opposition leader, expect to make their closing arguments in her trial on Monday, with the verdict to be announced shortly afterwards.
On Thursday, Kyi Win, a jurist and member of Mrs Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy argued that the charges against her had been mistakenly applied. He was the only one of the four defence witnesses proposed by Mrs Suu Kyi’s team that the court allowed to take the stand.
Mrs Suu Kyi is charged with breaking the terms of her house arrest by allowing an American, John Yettaw, to stay the night without reporting him to the authorities. Mr Yettaw used a pair of home-made flippers to swim uninvited to her lakeside house earlier this month.
Mrs Suu Kyi, 63, is fighting the charges, which carry a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment.
She told the court that she gave Mr Yettaw “temporary shelter” because he was exhausted and hungry after the swim and because she did not want to create trouble for him or for the security detail which is supposed to guard her house.
Mr Yettaw, a 53-year-old veteran of the Vietnam War who lives in Falcon, Missouri, is also on trial for breaking immigration and national security laws. He seems to have had more confused motives for his quixotic mission.
“He said the reason he came was in his vision he saw that Aung San Suu Kyi was assassinated by terrorists. Because of his vision, he came here to warn Aung San Suu Kyi and also the government,” said Nyan Win, one of Mrs Suu Kyi’s legal team.
If he is convicted, Mr Yettaw could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison.
Mrs Suu Kyi’s trial has been widely criticised: the United States called the proceedings “outrageous”, Britain’s Gordon Brown said he was “deeply troubled”, and a long list of Nobel Laureates and human rights activists have gathered together to demand Mrs Suu Kyi’s unconditional release.
And countries which have traditionally been reluctant to be too critical of the Burmese government, many of them Asian neighbours, have joined in the criticism.
The Association of South East Asian Nations, an influential regional grouping of which Burma is a member, has voiced rare concern, provoking a sharp reaction from the Burmese authorities.
“It is not political, it is not a human rights issue. So we don’t accept pressure and interference from abroad,” Maung Mynt, Burma’s deputy foreign minister told ministers gathered for an Asia-Europe Meeting in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh on Thursday.
But most outside observers say that Mrs Suu Kyi’s treatment only makes sense when seen through the lens of Burma’s internal politics.
Diplomats say that even China, Burma’s biggest trading partner and most influential ally, is privately unhappy with the government’s decision to put Mrs Suu Kyi on trial, although it is holding fast to its policy of non-intervention in public.