Suu Kyi lawyers give final appeal arguments

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jan 18 2010 05:20 PM | Updated as of Jan 19 2010 01:20 AM

YANGON, Myanmar - Myanmar's supreme court heard final arguments on Monday against the extended house arrest of detained pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, her lawyer said.

The 64-year-old opposition leader was ordered in August to spend another 18 months in detention after being convicted over an incident in which a US man swam to her house. A lower court rejected an initial appeal in October.

Monday's hearing at the top Yangon court, where both sides gave arguments, lasted more than three hours, according to Suu Kyi's main lawyer Kyi Win. He said a decision was expected within a month.

"We expect them to accept our arguments and after that release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi," he told AFP. Daw is a term of respect in Myanmar.

"The law is completely on our side," he said, adding that they argued her conviction was unlawful because it was based on regulations in the country's now-defunct 1974 constitution.

If the appeal is rejected, it is thought that Suu Kyi and her lawyers would have to appeal directly to the military government to try to get the conviction overturned.

The Nobel peace laureate, who is detained at her lakeside mansion in Yangon, did not attend the court and journalists were barred, although the British ambassador and another embassy official were seen going into the hearing.

Myanmar's military rulers have kept Suu Kyi in detention for 14 of the past 20 years, having refused to recognise her party's landslide victory in the country's last democratic elections in 1990.

The extension of her detention after a prison trial sparked international outrage as it effectively keeps her off the stage for elections promised by the regime some time this year.

But in recent months the United States, followed by the European Union, has shifted towards a policy of greater engagement with Myanmar -- which has been under military rule since 1962 -- as sanctions have failed to bear fruit.

Suu Kyi has also changed tack after years of favouring harsh international measures against Yangon, writing twice to junta chief Than Shwe since September offering her cooperation in trying to get Western sanctions lifted.

On Friday she met the ruling junta's liaison officer, in the latest sign of dialogue between the two sides. It was the fourth meeting between the pair since the beginning of October.