Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi barred from court hearing of her appeal, lawyer says

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Myanmar’s Suu Kyi not allowed to attend appeal

YANGON, Myanmar — Authorities in military-run Myanmar have barred opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from attending an upcoming appeal against her recent conviction for breaking the terms of her house arrest, her lawyer said Wednesday.

The 64-year-old opposition leader was convicted on Aug. 11 and sentenced to three years in prison with hard labor after an American intruder stayed at her home. The sentence was commuted to 18 months of house arrest by the junta chief, Senior Gen. Than Shwe.

Her appeal against the sentence is due to be heard Friday at the Divisional Court in Yangon.

Lawyer Nyan Win said Suu Kyi had submitted a request last week to attend the hearing but police had denied permission.

“This is violation of her personal rights,” said Nyan Win, adding that it raised questions about the fairness of the trial if the defendant is absent.

“We have to see how fair the court will be,” he said.

The Nobel Peace laureate has been detained for 14 of the past 20 years for her nonviolent political activities, but last month marked the first time she faced criminal charges.

Suu Kyi has described the conviction as unfair and the court’s handling of the case as unjust.

The main point of her appeal is that the law authorities used against her is invalid because it applies to a constitution abolished two decades ago.

Lawyers will also argue that the lower court misinterpreted Suu Kyi’s previous restriction order, which says she cannot communicate with the outside world by phone or mail. They contend the order should not be applied in the case of what happened with the American, John Yettaw, who swam uninvited to her home and stayed two nights.

Yettaw has said he wanted to warn Suu Kyi that he had a “vision” that she would be assassinated.

The appeal will also argue that judges and police officers illegally entered Suu Kyi’s home when they brought Yettaw back to re-enact his crime while Suu Kyi was being detained in prison, Nyan Win said, adding that the law states authorities must notify Suu Kyi prior to entering her home.

Yettaw was sentenced to seven years in prison but released on humanitarian grounds and deported Aug. 16.

Suu Kyi’s sentence ensures she cannot participate in elections scheduled for next year. Her party swept the last elections in 1990 but the results were never honored by the military, which has ruled the country since 1962.

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