‘The Lady’ Poised, Upbeat in Court Appearance

rangoon – She entered the courtroom on Tues­day af­ternoon look­­ing both beautiful and strong.

Aung San Suu Kyi, who will turn 64 on June 19, is on trial at a special court inside Rangoon’s In­sein pris­on after an American man, John William Yettaw, 53, swam across a lake to reach her Rangoon home.

I was amazed that everybody present—diplomats, embassy em­ployees and journalists—stood up when they saw “The Lady,” as Ms Suu Kyi is known to the Burmese people, enter the courtroom.

She wore a soft, maroon-colored blouse and a dark maroon cotton sarong. She looked calm and brave. In the other words: beautiful and powerful.

“She looks a little bit weak,” said one diplomat. “If you compare with what she looked like last week.”

Paying little attention to the crowd in the courtroom, she went to her lawyer, Nyan Win, who gave her a stack of pa­pers. Retrieving a pair of yellowish-brown plastic reading glasses that she carried in her black purse, the two started to read the documents together. I had nev­er seen her with glasses before.

Ms Suu Kyi read the papers and talk­ed with Mr Nyan Win for almost 10 minutes before two judges arriv­ed—the papers were an application calling for a one-hour delay to allow discussions between The Lady and her lawyers.

Just before the judges entered, and before she took her seat, Ms Suu Kyi greeted the diplomats and others in the courtroom. “Thank you very much for coming today,” she said in a soft but clear voice.

The weather was cloudy and hu­mid Tuesday afternoon, so it was hot in the courtroom. Ms Suu Kyi at one stage took a white handkerchief from her purse and patted her cheek of a little sweat.

After the judges were seated, Mr Ny­an Win delivered his application to the court on behalf of his client and announced that he needed time to discuss matters with his client be­fore she gave testimony Tuesday afternoon, as the two had not had an opportunity to talk since the pro­secutors charged her with breaking the terms of her house arrest.

The attorney’s application was not granted, and Judge Nyi Soe started to question Ms Suu Kyi.

During the questioning, The La­dy told the court there was no guard in her compound when Mr Yettaw entered, and she was not sure if there was any guard outside the compound at that time, either. When the judge asked whether she had informed the guards of Mr Yettaw’s presence, she answered that she had not.

At times Tuesday, Ms Suu Kyi complained about the judge’s choice of words when he sometimes asked the court’s typist to re­cord her answers, which he re­peated aloud. For example, she complained that the judge had tried to record her as saying that she had agreed to talk with Mr Yettaw. She moved to correct the record, saying she did not invite Mr Yettaw to talk to her, but she did talk with him.

Judge Nyi Soe questioned her for about 30 minutes. There was no cross-examination from the prosecutor or her lawyer. When the session ended, both Ms Suu Kyi and her lawyer smiled.

The judge then read aloud from what the typist had written of her testimony and asked Ms Suu Kyi if the information was correct. The Lady responded, “Yes.”

As she prepared to leave the courtroom she smiled and once again greeted the assembled dip­lomats and journalists, telling them how happy she was to see them, before she was led back to the building inside Insein Prison, where she is being detained.

Cameras and recording de­vices were banned from the court, and 26 diplomats and UN officials along with 25 journalists were in attendance. After Ms Aung San Suu Kyi left the courtroom, the diplomats and journalist filed out while the judge carried on with the case against Mr Yettaw.

On Wednesday morning, the Information Director of the Burm­ese police force, Myint Thein, announced that the government had plans to release Ms Aung San Suu Kyi from house detention, but that was, he claimed, until the visit of Mr Yettaw.

Now, Mr Myint Thein said, the government must prosecute her because of her acceptance of the American man’s visit. And the government, he added, has the right to detain her for the next six months, until Nov 27, 2009.

 

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