Western envoys at Suu Kyi hearing

Jan 19, 2010 (DVB), Diplomats from the British embassy in Rangoon yesterday attended the court hearing for Aung San Suu Kyi's latest appeal, in which lawyers refuted the legality of her sentencing last year.

"We were there to show our support for Suu Kyi's legal team," British embassy spokesperson Ruth Bradley-Jones told DVB, adding that they had been invited by the defence lawyers.

The embassy staff had been granted permission to attend by Rangoon authorities and were told that they would be given no special attention, although Bradley-Jones said the media presence outside the Burma courtroom after the hearing finished was significant.

Suu Kyi's lawyer, Nyan Win, said that the laws in the 1974 constitution on which the prosecution based its case "came to an end" in 1988.

"We argued that there is no legitimacy in putting the restrictions on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi under sections of a law that has already ended," he said.

"Government lawyers countered that, according to announcement 6/1988, a law can still remain in effect unless it has been publicly terminated and that there was no announcement made on termination of the 1974 constitution."

He added that a date for the appeal outcome had not been announced, but that the "unique" characteristics of the case may affect the normal timeframe for announcement.

He also said that two judges were present, instead of the traditional lone judge, and that there "was more security than listeners in the court room today".

"We believe that we will win on legal grounds. If we lose, we will submit a special appeal, which we have a right to do under law."

Another of Suu Kyi's lawyers, Kyi Win, presented her defence statements, while lawyer Hla Ohn Myint argued for Suu Kyi's two caretakers, Khin Khin Win and Win Ma Ma, who were also sentenced alongside the opposition leader.

Suu Kyi has however been barred from attending the appeal and remains confined to her house-cum-prison on the shores of Rangoon's Inya lake.

She was sentenced to 18-months under house arrest in August 2009 after allegedly sheltering US citizen John Yettaw, who swam across the lake to her compound in May.

Reporting by Khin Hnin Htet and Francis Wade

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