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Myanmar's Suu Kyi faces trial, critics outraged
Mon May 18, 2009 1:32am EDT
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By Aung Hla Tun
YANGON (Reuters) - Allies of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi gathered outside the Yangon prison on Monday where the Nobel Peace laureate faces trial on charges that could lock her away for five years.
The military regime has ignored international outrage at what critics call trumped-up charges against Suu Kyi, accused of breaking the conditions of her house arrest, which had been due to expire on May 27 after six years of detention.
Win Tin, a senior member of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) and the country's longest-serving political prisoner until his release last year, led 200 NLD members in a protest outside Insein Central Prison.
They were watched by armed police manning barbed-wire barricades and members of a pro-junta militia. Plain-clothes officers kept busy snapping photographs of the protest. Businesses in the area were ordered to close.
One leader of the NLD youth wing was arrested near the prison, but party officials did not have more details.
The government has called 22 witnesses against Suu Kyi and a verdict in the closed-door trial was not expected on Monday. If convicted, she faces three to five years in jail.
"She is ready to tell the truth that she never broke the law," her lawyer Kyi Win said.
Critics have accused the regime of trying to sabotage her defense by revoking the law license of Aung Thein, a prominent activist lawyer, at the weekend.
U.S. diplomats were seen entering the prison where John Yettaw, the American intruder who triggered the case against Suu Kyi by sneaking into her lakeside villa earlier this month, faces trial on several charges.
Critics say the trial is aimed at keeping the charismatic opposition leader in detention ahead of multi-party elections in 2010, derided by the West as a sham aimed at entrenching more than four decades of military rule in the former Burma.
The generals have not forgotten the NLD's landslide election victory in 1990, which the military rejected.
"The trial is all about keeping any voices of dissent silent in the run-up to rigged elections next year," said Zoya Phan of the Burma Campaign UK, which said demonstrations would be held at Myanmar embassies in 20 cities around the world on Monday.
The military has detained Suu Kyi for more than 13 of the past 19 years, much of that time at her Yangon home guarded by police, with her phone line cut and visitors restricted.
Yettaw, a 53-year-old Missouri resident who used homemade flippers to swim to Suu Kyi's home this month, is charged with immigration violations, encouraging others to break the law and entering a restricted area. Continued...
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