Asia

Myanmar's deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi to appear in person in court on May 24, says her lawyer

NAYPYITAW (AFP) – A judge on Monday (May 10) ordered Myanmar’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi to appear in person in court for the first time on May 24, her lawyer said, after weeks of delays in her case.

The Nobel laureate has not been publicly seen since she was detained in a Feb 1 coup, when the military ousted her from power and reinstalled its rule.

She was subsequently hit with a series of charges, and her legal team has faced an uphill battle to get a private audience with its client.

Multiple court hearings in the capital Naypyitaw have seen Ms Suu Kyi – who attended via video conferencing while under house arrest – express frustration at the pace of the proceedings.

During the latest hearing on Monday, a judge ordered for her cases to be heard with her present in a special courtroom near her residence.

“She will appear in person in court on May 24,” lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said.

However, he cautioned that the outstanding issue of not being able to meet privately with her still remains.

“The problem is not solved yet because the police did not answer on whether they can arrange our meeting,” he said, adding that private counsel is “the right of the defendant”.

The 75-year-old former leader has been charged six times since her arrest.

The charges include flouting coronavirus restrictions during last year’s election campaign and possessing unlicensed walkie-talkies.

The most serious charge alleges that she violated the country’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act – a case that is pending in a court in commercial hub Yangon.

The junta has also accused her of corruption – though no charges have been filed – alleging that she received bribes of gold bars and cash.

The junta has continuously justified her arrest and the coup as a way to defend democracy, alleging electoral fraud by her National League for Democracy Party, which swept November’s elections in a landslide.

Coupmaker Min Aung Hlaing, the army’s commander-in-chief, is now leading the junta, and holds legislative, executive and judicial powers in Myanmar.

Mass protests have continued since the coup, with hundreds of thousands defying junta rule to demand a return to democracy and the release of Ms Suu Kyi.

They have been met with live ammunition from security forces – at least 780 civilians have been killed in brutal crackdowns, said a local monitoring group.

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