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Suu Kyi in final witness appeal to Myanmar court

Lawyers for democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi pressed military-ruled Myanmar's top court on Wednesday to overturn a ban on two key witnesses at her internationally condemned trial, her party said.

world Updated: Jun 24, 2009 13:22 IST

Lawyers for democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi pressed military-ruled Myanmar's top court on Wednesday to overturn a ban on two key witnesses at her internationally condemned trial, her party said.

The Nobel Peace laureate faces up to five years in jail on charges of breaching the terms of her house arrest after a bizarre incident in which an American man swam uninvited to her lakeside home in May.

A court at Yangon's Insein prison last month barred two senior members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) from giving evidence, but the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal against the decision.

"We gave our arguments to the Supreme Court for about one hour on Wednesday. We do not have a date for the decision and must wait for it to be posted on the court's list," NLD spokesman and defence lawyer Nyan Win said.

The two barred witnesses are Win Tin, a journalist who was Myanmar's longest-serving political prisoner until his release in September, and detained deputy NLD leader Tin Oo.

"Regarding Wednesday's arguments, the prosecution complained about U Win Tin as he gave interviews to foreign media. We said that that is not related to the law," Nyan Win said. U is a term of respect in the Burmese language.

Aung San Suu Kyi's lawyers earlier this month successfully appealed against a ban on a third witness, while a fourth has already testified.

The prosecution has so far had 14 witnesses, adding to opposition and international claims that the proceedings are a show trial designed to keep the democracy icon locked up ahead of elections scheduled by the regime in 2010.

US national John Yettaw and Aung San Suu Kyi's two live-in aides are also on trial and face a similar sentence. All are being held at Insein jail, Myanmar's most notorious detention centre.

Aung San Suu Kyi has spent 13 of the last 19 years in detention since Myanmar's ruling junta refused to recognise the NLD's landslide victory in the country's last democratic polls in 1990.

The UN envoy to Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, may visit the country later this week ahead of a possible trip by the world body's chief Ban Ki-moon in early July focusing on the trial, officials and diplomats say.

"We hope to meet Mr Gambari when he comes, as we did on his previous visits," Nyan Win said.

Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday thanked people around the world who sent her birthday wishes and called for her immediate release as she turned 64 in jail last week.

Famous names including British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Beatles star Paul McCartney and US actor George Clooney offered support on a special website while events took place in more than 15 cities.

The charges against Aung San Suu Kyi come amid a wide-ranging crackdown on the opposition that has been carried out since the ruling generals crushed protests led by Buddhist monks in 2007.

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has been ruled by the military since 1962.