Friday, January 21

Myanmar court postpones verdict of ousted leader Suu Kyi

A court in Myanmar postponed its verdict on Tuesday in the trial of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi to allow the testimony of an additional witness, a high-ranking member of her political party.

The court agreed to a defense motion allowing Zaw Myint Maung, who had previously been unable to appear in court for health reasons, to add his testimony, a legal official said.

The court had been scheduled to deliver a verdict Tuesday on charges of incitement and violation of coronavirus restrictions.

The verdict would have been the first for the 76-year-old Nobel laureate since the army took power on February 1, arresting her and preventing her National League for Democracy party from starting a second term in office.

She is also on trial on a host of other charges, including corruption, which could send her to prison for dozens of years if convicted.

The judge postponed the process until December 6, when Zaw Myint Maung is scheduled to testify, said the legal official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the government has restricted the release of information about the trial. It was unclear when a verdict will be issued.

The cases are generally seen as a device to discredit Suu Kyi and prevent her from running in the next election. The constitution prohibits anyone sentenced to prison from holding high office or becoming a legislator.

Zaw Myint Maung, who was the prime minister of the Mandalay region, a senior state-level post, was also detained when the army took power. He is a vice president of Suu Kyi’s party and a doctor and, like her, faces various criminal charges, including corruption. He is 69 years old and reportedly suffers from leukemia.

He accompanied Suu Kyi during the election campaign last year, including in Naypyitaw, where his presence was the basis for one of the charges of violating coronavirus restrictions.

Suu Kyi’s party scored a landslide victory in last year’s polls. The army, whose allied party lost many seats, claimed that there was massive electoral fraud, but independent election observers did not detect any major irregularities.

Suu Kyi is still very popular and a symbol of the fight against the military government.

The army’s takeover of power was met with nonviolent demonstrations across the country that were repressed with lethal force by security forces, killing nearly 1,300 civilians, according to a tally by the Association for Assistance for Political Prisoners.

With severe restrictions on non-violent protests, armed resistance has grown in cities and countryside to the point where UN experts have warned that the country is sliding into civil war.

Suu Kyi, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her non-violent fight for democracy, has not been seen in public since she was arrested on the day the military took power. He has appeared in court in several of his trials, which are closed to the media and viewers.

In October, Suu Kyi’s lawyers, who had been the sole source of information on the legal proceedings, received gag orders prohibiting them from releasing information.

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