Suu Kyi to give evidence at her trial

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The Independent Online

Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi will testify tomorrow at her trial for violating the terms of her house arrest.

Nyan Win, one of Suu Kyi's lawyers, said today her defence team was unhappy that it was not given sufficient time to consult with their client about her planned testimony.

Suu Kyi is widely expected to be found guilty for allegedly harbouring an American who swam across a lake to her residence. She faces up to five years in prison.

Suu Kyi pleaded not guilty on Friday but Burma's courts operate under the influence of the ruling military, and almost always deal harshly with political dissidents.

Two women assistants who live with her, and the foreign intruder, also pleaded not guilty to the same charge.

Asked today if he thought the court is rushing through the trial, Nyan Win said: "It is very certain."

Already bombarded by criticism from Western nations, the junta turned on neighbouring Thailand, a partner in the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), accusing its neighbour of violating the bloc's principle by interfering in Burma's internal affairs.

Thailand, the grouping's current chairman, expressed "grave concern" over the trial last week, saying "the honour and the credibility of the (Burmese government) are at stake."

A statement from Burma responded today: "It is sadly noted that (Thailand) failed to preserve the dignity of ASEAN, the dignity of Myanmar (Burma) and the dignity of Thailand."

Suu Kyi had been scheduled to be freed from six years of detention without trial this Wednesday.

The charges against her are widely seen as a pretext for the government to keep her detained during polls it has scheduled for next year as the culmination of a "roadmap to democracy", which has been criticised as a fig leaf for continued military rule.

Nyan Win said the court waived nine remaining prosecution witnesses - 23 had been scheduled - and the judge announced that Suu Kyi would have to testify tomorrow, suggesting the military government wants to wrap up the proceedings quickly.

Suu Kyi's side does not contest the facts of the case - that a 53-year-old American, John Yettaw, swam across a lake to her property under the cover of darkness earlier this month to enter uninvited into her home. Her lawyers said she allowed him to stay for two days after he said he was too tired and ill to immediately swim back across the lake.

Suu Kyi told her lawyers she did not report him because she did not want him or security personnel in charge of her house to get into trouble because of her.

The 63-year-old Nobel Peace laureate told them the incident occurred because of a security breach - the house is tightly guarded - so the responsibility for allowing Yettaw in lies with the security forces.

When he pleaded not guilty, Yettaw, from Falcon, Missouri, explained it was because he had a dream that Suu Kyi would be assassinated and he had come to warn her that her life was in danger.

Ten to 15 journalists will be allowed to observe tomorrow's court session.Diplomats will also be allowed in.

Authorities unexpectedly opened the hearing for one day last week to diplomats from nearly 30 embassies and 10 reporters. Three diplomats also were allowed to meet Suu Kyi.

The trial comes weeks after the European Union announced it was stepping up humanitarian aid to the impoverished country and the United States said it was reviewing its policy - including speculation that it might soften sanctions the regime says have crippled its economy.

But now the EU is talking of introducing tougher sanctions in response to the trial and the administration of President Barack Obama has announced it will continue its economic penalties.

Mr Obama extended a state of emergency against the country after Suu Kyi's arrest. Sanctions would have expired if the emergency order had not been extended.