20 May 2009

Journalists allowed to observe Suu Kyi trial

10:21 pm on 20 May 2009

Authorities in Myanmar have announced that a specified number of journalists will be allowed to observe the trial of the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Ms Suu Kyi is accused of breaching the terms of her house arrest after American John Yettaw swam to her lakeside house.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner faces up to five years in jail if convicted.

In a rare concession to world opinion, the authorities are allowing 10 journalists to observe the proceedings. Five will be local representatives of foreign media organisations.

Some foreign diplomats have also been allowed into the courtroom.

The government plans to call 22 witnesses to support its case. Five of them have already testified that Mr Yettaw swam across the lake that backs onto Ms Suu Kyi's home and was arrested as he left after being allowed to stay for two nights.

Ms Suu Kyi's lawyer has argued that the man was uninvited and only allowed to stay after pleading that he was exhausted from his midnight swim.

Ms Suu Kyi, who is 63 and in frail health, has been in detention without being charged for more than 13 of the past 19 years.

Her latest period of detention was scheduled to expire on 27 May, and many observers see the case as a pretext to ensure she is still in detention during next year's elections.

She is currently being held and tried at the Insein Prison in Yangon.