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Aung San Suu Kyi verdict set for Friday in Myanmar

Tuesday, July 28, 2009 | 3:38 p.m. CDT

YANGON, Myanmar — The high-profile trial of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi concluded Tuesday with the court announcing it will deliver its verdict at the end of the week, a lawyer said.

Judge Thaung Nyunt said the court will make its ruling on Friday, according to defense attorney Nyan Win, who said he preferred not to speculate on the outcome.

"I don't want to guess what the verdict will be," Nyan Win told reporters. Without directly calling Suu Kyi's case politically motivated, he noted, "I have never seen any defendant in a political case being set free."

Suu Kyi's lawyers had expected a verdict next month. Details on why the court set the earlier date were not immediately available.

The detained 64-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate is accused of violating the terms of her house arrest by harboring an uninvited American man — John William Yettaw — who swam to her lakeside home and stayed for two days.

Suu Kyi faces up to five years in prison. She is widely expected to be convicted, although there has been speculation she may stay under house arrest rather than serve time in jail. Suu Kyi has been in detention for nearly 14 of the last 20 years.

Defense lawyers gave their reply Tuesday to the prosecution's final arguments in the case that has drawn international condemnation from world leaders, Hollywood celebrities and the United Nations.

The court rejected a bid by the defense to call a Myanmar foreign ministry official as an additional witness, calling it "not important," Nyan Win said.

Speaking softly, Suu Kyi stood and turned to diplomats attending the hearing and thanked them for coming.

"She thanked us for trying to promote a just outcome," said an Asian diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Diplomats from Japan, Singapore, Thailand and the United States were allowed to attend the trial Tuesday, one of the diplomats said, citing embassy protocol for speaking on condition of anonymity.

Suu Kyi won London-based Amnesty International's highest award Monday for her defense of human rights, underscoring international support for her struggle to bring democracy to the military-ruled country.

At a concert Monday in Dublin, Ireland, U2's Bono publicly announced the award — Amnesty's Ambassador of Conscience Award — before 80,000 cheering fans. The rights group said it hopes its highest honor would help deter Myanmar's junta from imposing any harsh new punishments on her.

But neither international outrage, nor offers of closer ties with the U.S. if Suu Kyi is freed, appear to have deflected the ruling junta's determination to neutralize — if not imprison — her.

Suu Kyi emerged as the country's democracy icon during a popular uprising in 1988, which was brutally suppressed by the military that has ruled the country since 1962.

Yettaw, meanwhile, was also charged with violating terms of Suu Kyi's house arrest — as an abettor — and could be sent to prison for five years. He also faces a municipal charge of swimming in a non-swimming area and is accused of immigration violations.

Yettaw pleaded not guilty and explained in court he went to warn Suu Kyi after having a dream she would be assassinated.

The New Light of Myanmar newspaper, a junta mouthpiece, rejected criticism that the government had seized on the incident as an excuse to keep Suu Kyi behind bars. In its editorial Tuesday, the paper said Yettaw had "illegally intruded" into Suu Kyi's home and appeared to be plotting an escape for her.

"He even left two chadors and dark sunglasses to (serve as a) disguise. Was it aimed at taking her out of the house?" the editorial said. "There are many points to ponder."

 


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