Suu Kyi Trial Shows Signs of Winding Down


The trial of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi resumed briefly in Yangon, with final arguments set for later in the month, signaling a possible end in sight for the high-profile legal case.

Ms. Suu Kyi is accused of violating the terms of her government-imposed house arrest by allowing an American well-wisher to visit her lakeside home in Yangon in early May. The trial was put on hold several weeks ago, as Myanmar authorities considered appeals by her lawyers to allow more witnesses to testify on her behalf. In the end, the authorities agreed to allow one more — a lawyer and member of Ms. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party — on top of another witness that testified earlier, but they denied other potential witnesses. Some 14 witnesses testified earlier for the prosecution. Human rights advocates and Western governments have widely condemned the trial, which they say is part of an effort by Myanmar’s military government to keep the 64-year-old Nobel laureate out of the public eye until at least after it holds a national election next year.

Myanmar authorities have said that they had no choice but to prosecute Ms. Suu Kyi for violating her house arrest, even though international rights groups contend the government had no right to put her under house arrest to begin with. Ms. Suu Kyi has lived under detention for the past six years and 14 of the last 20, mainly in her Yangon home, and under local law she now faces up to five years in prison.

The defense hasn’t challenged the basic facts of the case. But it has argued the government is misapplying the law, and that the government’s own security guards should bear responsibility for letting the man — 53-year-old John Yettaw of Falcon, Missouri — enter her guarded compound uninvited. In testimony Friday, defense witness Khin Moe Moe argued that Ms. Suu Kyi violated no existing laws because she is being charged under an old Myanmar constitution that was abolished 21 years ago, the Associated Press reported.

At the end of the nearly seven-hour session, the court set July 24 for final arguments in the case. A verdict would likely come somewhat later.

“I have known her (Ms. Suu Kyi) for 20 years and based on that and legal points, I made my testimony. She violated no laws,” Khin Moe Moe told reporters. She said Ms. Suu Kyi looked “healthy and alert.”

Riot police fanned out across the city and especially around Insein prison, where Ms. Suu Kyi is being held and where 100 or so protesters have gathered off and on since her trial began in mid-May.

Many Myanmar residents view Ms. Suu Kyi as the rightful leader of Myanmar after her political party easily won the last elections held in 1990. But the government ignored those results and has jailed many opposition leaders and dissidents since then. It has also led violent crackdowns on attempts by dissidents — including Buddhist monks who marched in 2007 — to publicly criticize the regime.

The resumption of the trial underscored the failure of recent diplomatic efforts to set Ms. Suu Kyi free. Last week, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made an official visit to the country to plead for her release, but he was rebuffed by the country’s top military leaders, and he wasn’t allowed even to see her. Some advocates have suggested hopefully that the international pressure on Myanmar’s military government could lead the junta to grant her a light sentence, though critics of the regime fear that’s unlikely.

Mr. Yettaw, who is facing trial for trespassing, has pleaded not guilty. He has said in court that he dreamed Ms. Suu Kyi would be assassinated and felt he had to visit her to warn her of the danger.

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