Suu Kyi lawyers prepare final arguments in Myanmar trial

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jun 01 2009 06:10 PM | Updated as of Jun 02 2009 02:10 AM

YANGON - Lawyers for Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi worked Monday to prepare the closing statements for her trial, a day after the ruling junta accused her of covering up an American's visit to her home.

The Nobel laureate's legal team said they hoped to meet with her this week at the notorious Insein Prison where she is being held, before the prosecution and defence present final arguments on Friday.

The 63-year-old faces up to five years in jail on charges of breaching the terms of her house arrest following an incident last month in which former US army veteran John Yettaw swam to her lakeside house.

"We will prepare this week for the final arguments in the case. We are still working on whether we will meet Daw Suu again," Nyan Win, one of her lawyers and also the spokesman for her opposition party, told AFP.

No hearings are expected in her closed trial until Friday, but Yettaw is due back in court on Monday on separate charges including immigration violations, a Myanmar official said.

On Sunday Myanmar's deputy defence minister, Major General Aye Myint, rejected foreign criticism of the trial, saying that it was an internal matter and said Aung San Suu Kyi was facing normal legal procedures.

"It is no doubt that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has committed a cover-up of the truth by her failure to report an illegal immigrant to the authorities concerned," he told a security forum in Singapore.

Myanmar's tightly controlled state-run newspapers carried prominent reports of Aye Myint's remarks on Monday.

Aung San Suu Kyi's spokesman Nyan Win said he could not comment on the general's remarks as the trial was ongoing, adding: "The court has not given any decision yet."

A guilty verdict is widely expected as Myanmar's courts have a track record of handing down tough sentences to dissidents, often in secret hearings.

Aung San Suu Kyi said last week that the charges against her were "one-sided."

She accused Myanmar authorities of failing to provide proper security despite the fact that she informed them of a previous intrusion by Yettaw in November 2008.

Aung San Suu Kyi has spent 13 of the last 19 years in detention, mostly in virtual isolation at her home. Her party won Myanmar's last elections, in 1990, but the result was never honoured by the junta.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Myanmar is a member, was likely to meet later Monday on the issue as the trial cast a cloud over the bloc while it tries to focus on strengthening international trade.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, the current ASEAN chair, was trying to convene a meeting of its leaders on the sidelines of an ASEAN-Korea Summit in the South Korean island of Jeju.

The group rebuked Myanmar last month in a rare step for the organisation, which has faced international calls to use its influence on Myanmar since the country joined ASEAN in 1997.

"The failure of ASEAN to take a strong stand on Myanmar has seriously undermined the credibility of the organisation," Bridget Welsh, a Southeast Asia specialist at Johns Hopkins University in the United States, told AFP.

US President Barack Obama has described the case against Aung San Suu Kyi as a "show trial" while the European Union has reiterated calls for her immediate release.