Mon 29 Jun 2009
Filed under: Inside Burma,News
Burma’s highest court rejected an appeal Monday by Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyers to reinstate two key witnesses in a trial that could send the pro-democracy leader to prison for five years.
High Court judge Tin Aung Aye rejected the appeal because it was “intended to disturb and delay the trial,” court officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
The court’s ruling means Suu Kyi will have only two defense witnesses in her trial, which resumes Friday.
The 64-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate is charged with violating the terms of her house arrest when an uninvited American man swam secretly to her lakeside home and stayed for two days.
“This is very unfair. The court had allowed 14 prosecution witnesses but only allowed two from the defense,” said Nyan Win, one of Suu Kyi’s lawyers.
“We tried our best to have the trial conducted according to the law but it has failed,” Nyan Win said.
The trial has drawn outrage from world leaders and human rights groups who say Burma’s junta is using the incident as an excuse to keep the country’s opposition leader behind bars.
Suu Kyi has been in detention for more than 13 of the last 19 years.
Nyan Win said reinstating the two witnesses would not “delay or defeat the ends of justice.”
Suu Kyi’s main lawyer, Kyi Wynn, described Monday’s ruling as a “rejection of justice.”
One defense witness, Khin Moe Moe, is scheduled to testify before the District Court inside Insein prison Friday.
The trial began May 18. The court at first had allowed only one of four defense witnesses to take the stand. On appeal, the Rangoon Divisional Court ruled that Khin Moe Moe also could be heard. Khin Moe Moe is a lawyer and member of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.
Suu Kyi’s lawyers pursued a second and final appeal to reinstate barred witnesses Win Tin and Tin Oo, both senior members of her party.
Prosecutors argued that Win Tin, a prominent former journalist and ex-political prisoner, should not be allowed to testify because he is critical of the government and often gave interviews to foreign media, said Nyan Win.
The defense team argued there was no law in the tightly ruled country that bars court testimony from government critics, Nyan Win said.
Prosecutors argued that Tin Oo, the party’s deputy leader, should not be allowed to testify because he is under house arrest, Nyan Win said.
Defense lawyers told the court that Suu Kyi herself was under house arrest but that didn’t stop authorities from putting her on trial, Nyan Win said. Suu Kyi was allowed to testify May 26, and her term under house arrest officially ended the next day.
She is currently detained at Insein prison along with John William Yettaw, 53, of Falcon, Missouri, who is charged with trespassing.
He 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.