Detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is innocent of charges levelled against her by Burma's ruling military, her lawyer said today, as she prepared for the start of her trial tomorrow.
Suu Kyi is accused of violating the terms of her house arrest by being visited by an American man who swam across a lake to her home earlier this month.
"After listening to the sequence of events, it is very clear that there is no breach of conditions of her restrictions," lawyer Kyi Win said after visiting the Noble Peace Prize laureate, who is being held at Yangon's Insein prison.
Suu Kyi, 63, was charged on Thursday with sheltering John Yettaw, reportedly a Vietnam War veteran, who will also be tried along with two female assistants who have been with Suu Kyi since 2003.
Suu Kyi had been scheduled to be freed on May 27 after six consecutive years of house arrest but now faces up to five years in prison if convicted. The charges are widely seen as a pretext for the ruling junta to keep Suu Kyi detained past elections 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 control.
In tomorrow's court session, Kyi Win said Suu Kyi's defence team will ask for an open trial and may also request bail. The prosecution is expected to call 22 witnesses during the trial. Kyi Win said Suu Kyi was ready to tell her side of the story. "She has always been ready to tell the truth," he said.
Today, a family member said Suu Kyi's personal physician, Tin Myo Win, was released by authorities a day earlier after being taken from his home on May 7, a day after Yettaw was arrested near Suu Kyi's lakeside residence, where she has been detained for more than 13 of the last 19 years.
Her latest arrest has sparked a storm of international appeals to Burma's government to free her and to restore democracy in the country, which has been under military rule since 1962. In unusually sharp criticism from a Southeast Asian nation, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo said today that his government was "deeply troubled and outraged" over the "trumped-up charges" against Suu Kyi.
"We urge the government to resolve the matter speedily and to release Aung San Suu Kyi immediately and unconditionally," he said. Suu Kyi's lawyer, Kyi Win, was allowed to meet privately with her yesterday in prison. Suu Kyi "recounted the events from the time that fellow (Yettaw) came into the house and how she had asked him to leave the house," Kyi Win said.
He said after hearing her story it was clear she did not violate her house arrest conditions. Exactly why Yettaw, of Falcon, Missouri, swam across the lake to see Suu Kyi remains unclear. After leaving, he was fished out of the lake by authorities about 1.2 miles from her residence and taken into custody. His wife, Betty Yettaw, described her husband as eccentric but peace-loving and "not political at all".
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