Suu Kyi witness appeal rejected

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The Independent Online

Myanmar's highest court yesterday rejected an appeal 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 only two people will testify in Suu Kyi's defense at her trial, which resumes Friday, and that a verdict could be reached in a week or two.

The 64-year-old Nobel Peace 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."

After the testimony by Khin Moe Moe — a lawyer and member of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy — on Friday at the District Court inside Insein prison, the court will have one more session for the lawyers' final arguments before rendering judgment, he explained.

The trial has drawn outrage from world leaders and human rights groups who say Myanmar's junta is using the incident as an excuse to keep the country's opposition leader behind bars through elections scheduled for 2010. Suu Kyi has been in detention for more than 13 of the last 19 years.

The court at first had allowed only one of four defense witnesses to take the stand. On appeal, the Yangon Divisional Court ruled that Khin Moe Moe also could be heard.

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.

Meanwhile, prosecutors said that Tin Oo, the party's deputy leader, should not be barred 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. Suu Kyi was allowed to testify May 26.

She is currently detained at Insein prison as is John William Yettaw, 53, of Falcon, Missouri, the intruder 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.

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