Aung San Suu Kyi trial opens to diplomats, journalists

May 20th, 2009 - 5:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Yangon, May 20 (DPA) Diplomats and a handful of journalists were permitted Wednesday to attend the third day of Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial, providing a rare opportunity for her to meet with the international community.
“I have been seeking permission to see you,” Suu Kyi told about 30 foreign diplomats who attended the trial at Yangon’s Insein Prison. “I hope to meet you in better days.”

Suu Kyi, 63, has spent the past six years in detention and near-complete isolation at her family compound in Yangon until May 3 when US national John William Yettaw, 53, swam into her life.

Although uninvited, Yettaw’s visit has provided Myanmar’s ruling junta with an excuse to keep Suu Kyi not only in prison for another five years for breaking the terms of her detention but also out of the political picture while it prepares for a general election next year.

Her latest detention term had been due to expire on May 27.

Suu Kyi’s trial, which has sparked international protests and expressions of concern, began Monday at Insein Prison, her likely place of residence should she be found guilty.

Myanmar judges on Monday rejected a petition by the defence to allow a public trial of Suu Kyi; her two house helpers, Khin Khin Win and Win Ma Ma; and Yettaw, who swam to her guarded home.

But on Wednesday, the judges agreed to allow five local journalists and the diplomats to attend the proceedings.

Two witnesses were called. Upon the conclusion of the afternoon session, a smiling Suu Kyi was introduced to the diplomats and allowed to chat briefly with them.

“Thank you for coming and for your support,” the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate said to a crowd of admiring diplomats.

Myanmar’s military regime, under a new barrage of criticism for putting Suu Kyi on trial, has been speeding up the court case, which might be concluded next week, Suu Kyi’s lawyer Nyan Win said.

It is to resume Thursday.

Roadblocks and hundreds of security personnel have been posted around Insein Prison to prevent possible protests.

Suu Kyi is accused of breaking the terms of her house detention by permitting Yettaw to swim to her home-cum-prison on Yangon’s Inya Lake and spend three nights there before swimming away.

Yettaw, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, faces several charges, including immigration violations for visiting a prisoner while on a tourist visa and municipal laws for swimming illegally in Inya Lake, state media reported.

Prosecutors said Yettaw had first illegally entered Suu Kyi’s house on Nov 30 when he passed his church’s Book of Mormon to her servants for Suu Kyi to read.

Although Suu Kyi’s doctor informed authorities of Yettaw’s uninvited visit last year, no action was taken against the man and he was allowed another tourist visa to re-enter the country this month, sources said.

Suu Kyi is the leader of the National Leage for Democracy opposition party, which won the 1990 general election by a landslide but has been blocked from power by Myanmar’s junta for the past 19 years. Suu Kyi has spent 13 of those years under house arrest.

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