Trial of Myanmar opposition leader nears end
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Trial of Myanmar opposition leader nears end

The sole defense witness was scheduled to appear Thursday at the trial of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi for violating the terms of her house arrest, as the proceedings seemed to be nearing their end.

world Updated: May 28, 2009 07:41 IST

The sole defense witness was scheduled to appear Thursday at the trial of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi for violating the terms of her house arrest, as the proceedings seemed to be nearing their end.

One of Suu Kyi's lawyers, Nyan Win, said that all but one of her witnesses had been disqualified, making it likely that the verdict will come this week.

The American whose uninvited visit to Suu Kyi's home triggered the case against her testified Wednesday that he was "sent by God" to make his nighttime swim to her compound earlier this month, according to Nyan Win.

Suu Kyi is accused of violating the terms of her house arrest by sheltering the visitor, John W. Yettaw of Falcon, Missouri. If convicted, the 63-year-old Suu Kyi could be sentenced to five years in prison. Myanmar's courts operate under the influence of the military and usually deal harshly with political dissidents. The regime's critics charge that the case against the Nobel Peace laureate was concocted to keep her detained during elections the government has planned for next year. She pleaded not guilty Friday. Nyan Win said Wednesday that only a legal expert, Kyi Win, would be allowed to testify in her defense. Suu Kyi's side is seeking to prove that her harboring Yettaw did not constitute a violation of her house arrest and that it was the duty of government guards outside her property to prevent any intrusions.

The rejected witnesses were another lawyer and two senior members of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party. The court said legal procedure allows it to reject witnesses who are proposed "for the purpose of vexation or delay or for defeating the ends of justice."

Nyan Win told reporters it was unfair and inappropriate to reject witnesses in such an important case. He said the court had approved 23 prosecution witnesses, of whom 14 took the stand. He said the court would hear Kyi Win's testimony on Thursday and judgment "is likely" to be made on Friday.

Two female party members, who live with Suu Kyi, and the 53-year-old Yettaw, face the same charge as Suu Kyi and have also pleaded not guilty.

During three hours of prosecution questioning on Wednesday, Yettaw spoke repeatedly of his plan to warn Suu Kyi of his premonition that she would be killed, said Nyan Win, who added that he said he had been sent by God.

Yettaw, who also secretly visited the house late last year without meeting Suu Kyi, said he visited because "in his vision, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi would be assassinated by terrorists and the terrorists would put the blame on the government. So he came to warn both the government and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi," according to Nyan Win. 'Daw' is a term of respect used for older women. Many of Suu Kyi's supporters have criticized Yettaw as a fool or dupe for getting her into trouble.

But Nyan Win said the democracy leader scolded people in the courtroom who mocked Yettaw for his testimony. Nyan Win declined to say who had mocked the American.

Nyan Win said the defense had nothing to ask Yettaw. Suu Kyi acknowledges that she allowed him to stay for two days this month after he swam across a lake to enter her house and then said he was too tired and ill to leave immediately. In a statement submitted to the court Tuesday, she said when Yettaw first tried to visit her house in November 2008 she reported the incident to authorities through her personal doctor, one of the few outside people she was permitted to meet, but that no action was taken.
Suu Kyi said she also intended to report the visit this month through the doctor, Tin Myo Win, but that he was not allowed into her house and was later held by authorities for more than a week. He has not appeared at the trial.

During less than half-an-hour of questioning by the judges on Tuesday, a pale and weak looking Suu Kyi insisted that she did not violate the law.

"This incident occurred because of a security breach (by authorities). However, until now no action has been taken on security," Suu Kyi said in her statement, released Wednesday by her party.

Yettaw testified that security personnel observed him during both his visits to Suu Kyi's
house, said Nyan Win. He said a soldier pointed a gun at him on the first occasion, and a group of soldiers threw stones at him the second time, but in neither case did they try to stop him.

The trial has sparked intense criticism worldwide of Myanmar's military regime, even among the country's Asian neighbors that normally refrain from commenting on its internal affairs. Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962. Suu Kyi's party won a 1990 general election, but the military refused to honor the results. She has been in detention without trial for more than 13 of the past 19 years.

First Published: May 28, 2009 07:40 IST