The verdict in the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi has been postponed by the court, amid increasing international pressure. The court in Myanmar said it was not yet ready to make a decision. (photo, from aljazeera.net)
On Friday, the judges in the Yangon court announced that they needed time to review the case and that a decision will be delivered on August 11, said the lawyers for the jailed opposition leader.
Since mid-May, the 64-year-old leader of the National League for Democrary (NLD) party has been on trial for harbouring an American man who swam uninvited to her lakeside home and stayed for two days.
Aung San Suu Kyi faces up to five years in jail on charges of violating the conditions of her house arrest.
Critics see the delay in the verdict as a sign that the ruling generals are stuck in a dilemma between domestic political survival and intense international pressure over the trial.
“I believe they really have serious legal problems,” Nyan Win, one of Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyers, told reporters after the brief court hearing at the Insein prison in Yangon.
“I do not want to say anything regarding politics. But could it be because of pressure from the UN or others? We do not know exactly but there might be something.” For nearly 14 of the last 20 years, the Nobel peace laureate has been kept under house arrest by Myanmar’s ruling generals, after her NLD party won a landslide victory in the 1988 elections.
According to Jared Genser, Aung San Suu Kyi’s international legal counsel, the latest postponement in the trial is another attempt by the military government to deflect foreign criticism.
“It is in some ways a smart move – push off the verdict until the middle of August when numerous government and UN officials around the world will be on vacation,” he said in a statement.
“But it remains to be seen whether this ploy will work or if anticipation will be heightened in the run-up to the issuance of the verdict.”
Earlier on Friday, after warnings in the military-controlled state media that protests against a guilty verdict would not be tolerated, riot police surrounded the prison and police trucks patrolled the city. (photo, from aljazeera.net)
Critics have called the trial a sham based on charges trumped up by the military in order to keep her behind bars through elections planned for next year.
But neither international outrage nor offers of closer ties with the US if she is freed appear to have been able to deflect the military rulers’ apparent determination to neutralise, if not jail, her.
The repeated adjournments were orchestrated by the military rulers to make the court appear fair and impartial, said Benjamin Zawacki, a Myanmar specialist for human rights watchdog Amnesty International.
“It’s very suspicious since most courts wouldn’t take this long,” he said. “We knew the verdict was decided long ago. This is clearly political and not legal.”
A diplomatic source who attended the proceedings said the verdict was delayed “because of the need to interpret legal terms relating to the 1974 constitution”.
Her legal team argued that as the law Aung San Suu Kyi is charged under was part of the 1974 constitution that is no longer in use, she should be acquitted.
But the prosecution said that the charges are relevant because the 1974 constitution was still in force when Aung San Suu Kyi’s latest period of house arrest started in 2003.
Verdicts have also been expected in the cases of John Yettaw, the US citizen, and of Khin Win and Win Ma Ma, the two female aides who were living with Aung San Suu Kyi at the lakeside property.
The military government could be stalling as a result of international condemnation of the trial, said an unnamed Western diplomat in Yangon.“The regime wants to take its time because of the mounting pressure it is under,” the diplomat said. “They’re being attacked from all fronts and they have a lot of things to consider.”