Verdict for US citizen 'due Wednesday'

Jan 25, 2010 (DVB), The outcome of the trial in which a Burmese-born US citizen is accused of fraud and forgery will be announced on Wednesday this week, his lawyer said.

The lawyer for Nyi Nyi Aung, also known as Kyaw Zaw Lwin, said however that the three charges brought against his client by a Rangoon court are false. If found guilty, he could face a maximum 17 years in prison.

Analysts have also argued that the trial was politically motivated, stemming from the work Nyi Nyi Aung has done as an activist since fleeing Burma to the US in 1993.

Lawyer Nyan Win said that the charge of possession of fake identification carried "absolutely no evidence that Nyi Nyi Aung had either made or used [the ID]".

Likewise, another charge of carrying excessive amounts of the Burmese currency was "built on a Personal Declaration Form which he had not yet handed to airport customs" after he arrived at Rangoon airport on 3 September last year.

"The form was allegedly seized from him after he was arrested and it has his handwriting on it," said Nyan Win. "However, the form was handed to customs by airport security and it wasn't his official declaration."

Nyi Nyi Aung was arrested immediately upon arrival at the airport, with initial speculation that the Burmese government had linked him to the preparatory phase of a series of bombings that hit Rangoon on 16 and 17 September.

His wife later said that he had travelled to Burma to visit his mother, who is sick with cancer. He had reportedly made several trips to Burma since he fled seventeen years ago.

The third charge was brought under the Myanmar Residents' Identification Law. Nyan Win said however that "even the law's name doesn't have any relevance with Nyi Nyi Aung , he is not resident in Burma."

"Also the law itself includes a paragraph stating that it has no relevance for foreigners, such as Nyi Nyi Aung," he added.

Nyan Win also refuted rumours that Nyi Nyi Aung was last week moved to solitary confinement in Rangoon's notorious Insein prison. Instead, prison officials had placed cloth around his cell to restrict contact with other prisoners, he said.

The US embassy in Rangoon has been allowed only sporadic visits to Insein prison to meet with Nyi Nyi Aung, although an embassy spokesperson said last week that it was regularly pushing the government to allow for more regular access.

Reporting by Khin Hnin Htet

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