Last witness speaks at trial of Myanmar's Suu Kyi

A Missouri man is accused of breaching security at the pro-democracy leader's compound
Thursday, May 28, 2009 | 1:18 p.m. CDT

YANGON, Myanmar — The sole witness allowed for pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi insisted Thursday that she had broken no law as a Myanmar court heard final testimony before closing arguments in a trial that could send the Nobel Peace Prize laureate to prison for five years.

Kyi Win, a legal expert and a member of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party, argued there was no legal basis to the charge that Suu Kyi had violated the terms of her house arrest when an uninvited American swam secretly to her home.

Prosecutors seemed very unhappy at his testimony, Kyi Win told reporters outside the courtroom after the trial's ninth day. Reporters were not allowed inside Thursday; they have been allowed in just twice.

The trial has drawn outrage from the international community and Suu Kyi's local supporters, who worry that the military junta has found an excuse to keep her detained through next year's elections. Her party won the last elections in 1990 but was not allowed to take power by the military, which has run the country since 1962.

Her six years of house arrest had been due to end Wednesday, but the American's bizarre visit this month brought her arrest instead.

A Foreign Ministry statement carried Thursday by state-owned newspapers said the trial was strictly related to the rule of law and would "not have any political impact," and the junta would therefore go ahead with next year's elections. Critics say the polls are a fig leaf for continued military rule.

Suu Kyi's defense team has acknowledged that 53-year-old John W. Yettaw swam to and sneaked into her lakeside home, where he stayed for two days. But they insist it was the duty of government guards outside her closely watched house to prevent any intruders.

Her lawyers are also strongly contesting the validity of the charges against Suu Kyi because the police who charged her cited a law that is part of the country's 1974 constitution, which was annulled when the military took power in 1988. The country adopted a new charter last year.

The court at Yangon's Insein Prison rejected three other defense witnesses Wednesday. It had approved 23 prosecution witnesses, and 14 of them testified.

The court is to recess on Friday and hear closing arguments from both sides on Monday, Kyi Win said.

Nyan Win, a lawyer for Suu Kyi, said the defense team would submit a letter Friday seeking permission for a private meeting with their clients on Saturday. Yettaw and two female party members who live with Suu Kyi face the same charge as Suu Kyi and have also pleaded not guilty.

Yettaw, of Falcon, Mo., told the court Wednesday he had been sent by God to warn Suu Kyi of his premonition that she would be assassinated by terrorists, Nyan Win said.

Yettaw also secretly went to her house late last year but did not meet Suu Kyi.

Suu Kyi acknowledges that she allowed him to stay for two days this month because he said he was too tired and ill to leave immediately.

Yettaw also testified that security personnel observed him during both of his visits but did not try to stop him, Nyan Win said.

A man was arrested near Insein Prison on Thursday after he shouted for Suu Kyi's release, witnesses said.

Supporters of Suu Kyi identified the protester as Zaw Nyunt, who they said was not a member of her party. They said he held up two signs calling for her release for only a few seconds before about a dozen junta supporters jumped on him and dragged him away.

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