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Myanmar delays Suu Kyi verdict
Military government delays verdict in opposition leader's trial to August 11.
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2009 09:18 GMT

The decision to put Aung San Suu Kyi on trial has sparked protests around the world [Reuters]

A court in Myanmar has delayed its verdict in the trial of detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's until August 11.

Chad Jacinto, the charge d'affaires in the Philippine embassy in Yangon who was present in the court on Friday, told Al Jazeera that the judge postponed the verdict saying the court needed more time to review the case.

He said Aung San Suu Kyi, who had "seemed very strong" in court, "was surprised" by the announcement.

"Everyone in the room was surprised about this decision, everyone was expecting a verdict today," he said.

Ahead of Friday's expected announcement of a verdict, tight security had been imposed around Yangon's Insein prison, where the trial has been held since May, and the government had warned opposition supporters against taking to the streets.

'Smart move'

Jared Genser, a member of Aung San Suu Kyi's legal team, said the delay to "push off the verdict until the middle of August when numerous government and UN officials around the world will be on vacation", was "in some ways a smart move".

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"But it remains to be seen whether this ploy will work or if anticipation will be heightened in the run up to the issuance of the verdict," he said.

Earlier Nyan Win, another member of the defence team, said the 64-year-old Nobel peace laureate had been "preparing for the worst".

He said she was "physically and mentally fine, and very alert" but was gathering medicine and books in anticipation of a lengthy jail sentence.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been on trial since mid-May, charged with violating the terms of her house arrest by allegedly harbouring an American man who swam uninvited to her lakeside home and stayed for two days.

The leader of the main opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party who has spent nearly 14 of the last 20 years in prison or under house arrest, could be jailed for another five years if found guilty.

'Obvious' verdict

On Tuesday, Aung San Suu Kyi had said she expected the verdict to be "painfully obvious", according to diplomats allowed into the courtroom when closing arguments were made.

Aung San Suu Kyi has spent nearly 14 of the last 20 years in jail or under house arrest [AFP]
The diplomats said she thanked them "for trying to promote a just outcome" but said she was not optimistic.

The trial has been held largely behind closed doors, although selected diplomats and a handful of reporters have occasionally been allowed access.

The American intruder, John Yettaw, has also been on trial, along with two female aides who have been the opposition leader's only companions during her house arrest.

The opposition leader's lawyers - who have not contested the facts of the case - have consistently argued that the law used by the authorities is invalid because it applies to a constitution abolished two decades ago.

They also say that government guards stationed outside her home should be held responsible for any intrusion into her property.

Still, Aung San Suu Kyi is widely expected to be convicted in a country where courts are known to rule in favour of the military which has ruled since 1962.

And the ruling generals are not likely to tolerate any public opposition to the court's decision.

Protesters can be jailed for seven years, and while some have taken the risk outside the gates of Insein prison where she is being held, the bloody crackdown on anti-government protests led by monks in 2007 are still fresh in many people's minds.

Critics have said the trial is a sham based on charges trumped up by the military in order to keep her behind bars through elections planned for next year.

But neither international outrage nor offers of closer ties with the US if she is freed appear to have been able to deflect the military rulers' apparent determination to neutralise, if not jail, her.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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