Friday, July 24, 2009
The trial of Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is reported to have resumed in Rangoon, with lawyers presenting closing statements to court.
Ms Suu Kyi is being tried on charges of violating the terms of her house arrest in May, after a US man evaded guards and swam to her lakeside home.
If convicted she faces up to five years in jail.
The trial has been widely condemned as a ploy to keep the Nobel Peace laureate in custody until after elections.
Polls are planned by the military government for some time next year. Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won the last elections in 1988 but was never allowed to take power.
Ms Suu Kyi, 64, has spent nearly 14 of the last 20 years in detention, much of it at her Rangoon home.
'Law on our side'
The trial, which had been expected to wrap up in days when it started, has dragged on for more than two months.
A Burmese official who did not wish to be identified told the Associated Press news agency that proceedings had resumed at Insein prison in Rangoon.
In its final summing up, the prosecution is expected to restate its argument that Aung San Suu Kyi must be held responsible for the midnight swim to her home by an American well-wisher in early May.
Burma's rulers have refused to heed global calls for Ms Suu Kyi's release
Her lawyers have argued that the law she has been charged under is part of a constitution abolished 25 years ago.
In any case, they say, she cannot be responsible for the incident as she was living under tightly-guarded house arrest at the time.
Some European diplomats have reportedly been given permission to attend the court session. Ms Suu Kyi's legal team said they had been allowed to meet her on Thursday to finalise their strategy.
Her main lawyer, Kyi Wi, said: "We have the law on our side, but we don't know if the judges are on our side."
Only two witnesses have been allowed to testify for the defence. Twenty-three prosecution witnesses were approved, of whom 14 have testified.
BBC South East Asia correspondent Jonathan Head says the fact that some defence witnesses and foreign observers have been allowed shows that the government belatedly recognised the anger stirred up around the world by putting Ms Suu Kyi on trial on such bizarre charges.
But, our correspondent adds, all the indications are that she will still be found guilty. Burma's ruling generals fear her popularity, and do not want her to play any role in the election they are planning next year.
When UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Burma earlier this month, he was denied a meeting with Ms Suu Kyi.
At this week's Asian security summit in Thailand, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said improved ties with Washington were possible, but she stressed that Ms Suu Kyi's release was a key factor.
"We've been clear about the other essential steps: respect the rights of their people, release Aung San Suu Kyi, and hold open and credible elections next year," she said.
Burmese state media rejected her comments as "interference".
"Demanding release of Daw Suu Kyi means showing reckless disregard for the law," The New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.
"The court will hand down a reasonable term to her if she is found guilty, and it will release her if she is found not guilty," it said.