The Burma court scheduled to deliver a verdict in the high-profile trial of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said today it was not yet ready to make a decision and adjourned until 11 August, diplomats said.
Suu Kyi rose to her feet after the judge's announcement, turned to foreign diplomats in the courtroom and said jokingly, "I apologize for giving you more work," a Western diplomat said on condition of anonymity, citing protocol.
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 to her house uninvited. She faces up to five years in prison.
Her trial has drawn international condemnation since it opened 18 May. Critics have accused the military government of using the bizarre incident as a pretext to keeping Suu Kyi behind bars through the country's planned elections next year.
Friday's hearing lasted only a few minutes.
"The presiding judge walked into the courtroom and said the verdict will be postponed until Aug. 11 because the court is not ready to give the ruling," a foreign diplomat who attended the hearing told The Associated Press. The court was closed to journalists.
Another diplomat said the judge added that the ruling required "further deliberation." The diplomats interviewed asked not to be named because of the sensitivity surrounding the trial.
Security was heightened Friday ahead of the expected verdict, with teams of riot police stationed nearby. All roads leading to Yangon's Insein prison — where the trial is being held in a court inside the compound — were blocked by barbed-wire barricades.
Suu Kyi's lawyers had said they were cautiously optimistic about the outcome.
"The charges against our client are not strong and we are confident that we will win if things go according to the law," lawyer Nyan Win said early Friday as he entered the prison.
A day earlier he said that Suu Kyi was "preparing for the worst" and stocking up on medicine and reading material in case she is sent to prison. Suu Kyi provided lawyers with a list of requested books, which Nyan Win said he delivered to her, including novels and historical biographies in English, French-language history books and others in Burmese on Buddhism.
Suu Kyi is charged with violating the terms of her lengthy house arrest when an American intruder swam across a lake and spent two nights at her home in May.
She is widely expected to be convicted, although there has been speculation she may stay under house arrest rather than serve time in jail. Suu Kyi has been in detention for 14 of the last 20 years, since leading a pro-democracy uprising in 1988 that was crushed by Burma's military junta.
Verdicts were also postponed for the uninvited American visitor, John Yettaw, 53, and two women who lived with Suu Kyi — Khin Khin Win and her daughter Win Ma Ma — and face charges similar to hers. Yettaw is charged as an abettor in violating her house arrest and faces up to five years in prison.
Suu Kyi's lawyers have not contested the basic facts of the case but argued that the law used by authorities against her is invalid because it applies to a constitution abolished two decades ago. They also say that government security guards stationed outside Suu Kyi's compound should be held responsible for any intrusion.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters in New York on Wednesday that he hopes the government will respond to his repeated appeals to free Suu Kyi.
But neither outside pressure nor the possibility of better economic and political ties with the West has deterred the ruling junta, which appears determined to find Suu Kyi out of the public eye.
Suu Kyi's party won national elections in 1990, but Burma's generals refused to relinquish power. Next year's promised elections will be the first in two decades.Reuse content