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Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest lifted

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Burma’s military authorities on Tuesday lifted the house arrest order of opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, her lawyer said. But she remains under detention inside Rangoon’s notorious Insein Prison, where she is facing trial on charges of breaching her terms of detention.

One of her lawyers, Nyan Win, told Mizzima that Police Brigadier General Myo Thein, along with Burma’s Police Chief Khin Yi, on Tuesday morning read out an order removing restrictions imposed on Aung San Suu Kyi under her former sentence of house arrest.

“It implies that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is no more under house arrest, but she remains under detention as she is currently facing a trial,” Nyan Win explained.

Myo Thein also told foreign diplomats and journalists that authorities had been thinking of releasing Aung San Suu Kyi when her current term of detention expires on May 27, but the American’s visit had interrupted their considerations.

Khin Yi and Myo Thein said authorities had considered releasing her even though her detention period could still be extended for another six months. However, they did not cite any legal reasons for why her house arrest could have been extended.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s International Lawyer, Jared Genser, was outraged at the news, saying no legal grounds – both by international and domestic law – can allow the extension of her detention.

Genser, in an email message, said the junta’s claim has already been considered and rejected by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which is part of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Genser said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi cannot be legally placed under further house arrest. He cited the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s opinion issued on the holding of the Burmese pro-democracy leader.

The opinion, issued by the Working Group on August 29, 2008, states that Burma’s 1975 State Protection Law allowed Aung San Suu Kyi to be detained only until May 2008.

“Therefore, the most recent extension on 28 May, 2008, amounts to a prima facie violation of the Union of Myanmar’s own laws,” the opinion read.

And even if the junta claims that the order to restrict her was issued only on November 28, 2003, she could only be detained up to November 27, 2008, the opinion stated.

Court Testimony

Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday gave her testimony to the court, stating that she had not invited and had not known of the visit of John William Yettaw until she was informed of his presence by her housemate, Khin Khin Win, on May 4.

The Nobel Peace Laureate also said she had given Yettaw temporary refuge as he pleaded with her to allow him to stay. She also admitted providing food.

Further, she confirmed she had not informed the police after Yettaw left her home, saying that her political convictions did not allow her to push Yettaw into danger by informing the police about his visit.

“Aung San Suu Kyi said that by herself and her friends facing restrictions, and not receiving protection under the law, her political convictions could not allow any other person to be put in danger,” Nyan Win, one of her lawyers, recounted of her testimony.

Nyan Win said the court on Tuesday did not allow for any cross examination of Aung San Suu Kyi, the judge only reading out questions to which she gave short but precise answers.

Nyan Win also said the judge on Monday refused to allow him a meeting with his client to prepare for Tuesday’s testimony.

The court has fixed the next hearing to be on Wednesday, but Nyan Win said it will only be concerned with the cases against Khin Khin Win, Win Ma Ma and Yettaw. Aung San Suu Kyi is not slated to appear again until Thursday.

“I think at this rate the trial could be over within days. It might take only about another three or four days,” said Nyan Win, adding that the verdict could probably already have been given to the judge.

“But if the court reaches a verdict and sentences her, we will move to higher courts for appeal and will continue fighting,” he added.

‘Half-open’ court again

Authorities for the second time on Tuesday allowed 25 journalists – 15 correspondents for foreign media outlets and 10 domestic correspondents – along with 29 diplomats into the court to witness the proceedings against Burma’s pro-democracy leader.

They were also given a press briefing by Police Brigadier General Myo Thein, where Police Chief Khin Yi was also present.

A correspondent for a foreign news service in Rangoon told Mizzima that the junta probably wants to signal to the world that they are not restricting journalists and diplomats to hear the testimony of Aung San Suu Kyi and wants to prove they are conducting an open court.

“But what an open court it is? I don’t understand,” he said.

Last Wednesday authorities had allowed 10 journalists and 30 foreign diplomats into the special court in Insein Prison. Kyi Win, a member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s legal team, said they welcomed the move but would like to see the trial be even more open.

He termed the court “a half-open court” and urged the government to open up more.

But the following day, Thursday, the court was again conducted behind closed-doors, with no other people present except those directly involved in the case – judges, legal advisors and security officials.

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