Burmese court will hear Suu Kyi appeal

Dec 22, 2009 (DVB), Burma's top court yesterday accepted an appeal against the house arrest of detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, following a lower court's guilty verdict in August.

In a court hearing on Sunday, lawyer Kyi Win presented arguments for Suu Kyi against the verdict on her 18-month sentence, handed down after Suu Kyi allegedly "sheltered" US citizen John Yettaw, who swam to her lakeside compound-cum-prison in May.

Another defence lawyer, Hla Myo Myint, made a statement for Suu Kyi's two house caretakers, Khin Khin Win and Win Ma Ma, who were sentenced alongside Suu Kyi, said lawyer Nyan Win.

"A divisional court has recognised that the 1974 basic constitution no longer exists, yet the verdict on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is passed under that [constitution's] law," said Nyan Win.

"We argued that the restriction order given under the specific law is illegitimate, and thus so is the verdict based on that restriction order. We emphasised that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi did not committed any crime."

He said a counter argument was made by attorney general’s office director, Khin Cho Ohn, in favour of the government, and it was also accepted by the court.

"[The prosecutors] argued that there was no official order statement on abolishing the 1974 constitution and that the opening chapter of the 2008 constitution only said that the 1974 constitution was 'terminated' but not 'abolished'," he said.

"But in our opinion, whether it said 'terminated' or 'abolished,' the meaning is that the law cannot be used anymore."

He said an appointment to hear closing arguments from both sides is yet to be set, but that it may take around six weeks.

A retired senior civil servant from Rangoon told Reuters, on condition of anonymity, that the verdict was "purely political issue and the order to free her will come from Senior General Than Shwe, not from the Supreme Court".

A "goodwill" interjection on behalf of the junta leader following her initial sentencing to three years in prison forced the courts to commute the sentence to 18 months' house arrest.

"I think her release will come when the regime feels confident enough," he added.

Reporting by Khin Hnin Htet

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