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Myanmar's Suu Kyi tells lawyers to push appeal

world Updated: Jun 11, 2009 12:12 IST

Lawyers for jailed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi prepared to file an appeal Thursday to Myanmar's High Court to reinstate two key defense witnesses in a case that could put her in prison for five years.

“We will know if the High Court accepts our appeal or not on Friday,” said Nyan Win, one of her lawyers.

Nyan Win said Suu Kyi gave her legal team instructions to pursue a second appeal during a 1 1/2-hour Wednesday meeting at Insein Prison, where she is being held while on trial for allegedly violating the terms of her house arrest.

The lawyer accused the government of trying to pressure Suu Kyi's defense team, saying that the wife of lawyer Hla Myo Myint who worked as a civil servant was suddenly dismissed from her job Tuesday.

“No reason or explanation was given for the dismissal. This clearly shows that there is no rule of law,” Nyan Win said. The dismissal could not be immediately confirmed because government offices are not allowed to speak to the media.

Suu Kyi is charged with violating terms of her house arrest because an uninvited American man swam secretly to her closely guarded lakeside home last month and stayed two days. It is widely expected that the 63-year-old Nobel laureate will be found guilty, because courts in Myanmar are known for handing out harsh sentences to political dissidents.

The hearing has drawn outrage from the international community and Suu Kyi's local supporters, who say the military government is using the bizarre incident as an excuse to keep the pro-democracy leader detained through next year's elections.

President Barack Obama's choice for the top US diplomat in East Asia said the outcome of Suu Kyi's trial would be a major consideration as Washington considered relaxing its long-standing policy of isolation against Myanmar.

Kurt Campbell told US lawmakers at his Senate confirmation hearing that Myanmar's heavy-handed treatment of Suu Kyi hindered any effort to change course and engage the junta. He said the junta's trial of Suu Kyi was “deeply, deeply concerning, and it makes it very difficult to move forward.” The District Court trying Suu Kyi had allowed only one of four defense witnesses to take the stand. On appeal, the Yangon Divisional Court on Tuesday ruled that a second witness could be heard.

But two senior members of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party remain barred from giving testimony.

Suu Kyi “told us to see it through to the end as the ruling is legally wrong,” Nyan Win said.

It was not clear if another appeal, which could cause further delays in the proceedings, would be accepted. Closing arguments that had originally been scheduled for June 1 were postponed by the court without explanation until June 5 and were delayed again by the first appeal for more witnesses.

Since at least one extra witness now must be heard, no new date has yet been set for closing arguments.

Nyan Win said Tuesday that he did not expect a verdict for at least two more weeks.

The uninvited American visitor, John Yettaw of Missouri, and two women who live with Suu Kyi are being tried on the same charge. Suu Kyi's party won the country's last elections in 1990 but was not allowed to take power by the military, which has run the country since 1962. She has been under house arrest for more than 13 of the past 19 years.