YANGON (Reuters) - A court in army-ruled Myanmar has delayed the widely-condemned trial of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi for at least two weeks, her lawyer said on Friday.
The Yangon District Court set a new date of June 26 to hear the charges against Suu Kyi and American John Yettaw, whose uninvited visit to her home last month was deemed a breach of her house arrest.
Lawyers for the Nobel laureate asked for the adjournment to allow her only remaining defense witness, legal expert Khin Moe Moe, to testify at the trial.
“We requested the further adjournment since Daw Khin Moe Moe has to come here from southern Shan State,” Nyan Win told reporters.
Suu Kyi faces up to five years in prison if found guilty of violating her house arrest after Yettaw, 53, swam across Inya lake and stayed for two nights at her Yangon home.
Suu Kyi says the trial is politically motivated to keep her in detention during next year’s multi-party elections, which critics say will entrench nearly half a century of military rule in the former Burma.
Even some of Myanmar’s neighbors are worried about the legitimacy of next year’s polls. Singapore Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong told the generals that future investment in Myanmar hinged on the progress of democratic change there.
“I believe no Singapore investor will come in a big way before this move toward democracy is seen to yield some results,” Goh was quoted as saying by the Straits Times newspaper on Friday after his visit to Myanmar.
A conviction for the charismatic National League for Democracy (NLD) party leader is widely expected in a country where the courts often bend the law to suit the military.
The Supreme Court on Thursday accepted an appeal over a lower court’s decision to bar two of her defense witnesses, senior NLD member Win Tin and the party’s detained vice-chairman, Tin Oo. The appeal will be heard on June 17.
If the court overturns the bans and allows the pair to testify, final arguments and a verdict on Suu Kyi’s case would be reached “much later,” Nyan Win added.
He said Khin Moe Moe’s testimony will highlight flaws in the prosecution’s case and “explain that these charges are all politically motivated.”
Suu Kyi is charged under Section 22 of an internal security law to protect the state from “subversive elements” but her lawyers say all charges should be dropped because the legislation is outdated.
She has blamed lax security for allowing Yettaw to swim to her home. She has spent more than 13 years in detention since her first period of house arrest in July 1989.
Her latest stint was lifted on May 26 and she is now being held in a guesthouse at Yangon’s infamous Insein prison while the trial continues.
Yettaw told the court he was sent by God to protect Suu Kyi from “terrorists” seeking to kill her.
He and two of Suu Kyi’s housemaids are also charged under the same draconian security law.
The trial has sparked outrage around the world. Western governments and Myanmar’s regional neighbors have urged the junta to free Suu Kyi and other political prisoners and allow them to take part in next year’s polls.
(Additional reporting by Nopporn Wong-Anan in Singapore)
Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Sugita Katyal