Conflicts & War

Myanmar’s Suu Kyi being tried without lawyer in ‘secret’ trial

Update 2: Adds info about Suu Kyi’s trial, changes headline, lede

Yangon, Myanmar, Feb 17 (efe-epa).- Deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi is facing trial over several charges without a defense team, her lawyer said Wednesday, in a process classified as “secret” after being arrested following a coup d’etat earlier this month.

“I am not allowed to enter the court because I have not been recognized as Ms. Suu’s lawyer. She still does not have a legal defense,” Khin Maung Zaw told EFE.

Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest since the military uprising, was charged Feb. 3 for illegally importing a telephone device and charged with a crime related to the law of natural disasters.

In what is considered the first hearing of the trial against the elected leader, Suu kyi appeared the day before for the first time via videocall for an hour before the judge in a court in the capital Naypyitaw.

The next hearing will be in two weeks, the lawyer said, adding that the magistrate who judges her “has just been appointed.”

Suu Ki’s team of lawyers and her party, the National League for Democracy, said they found out about the arraignment once it was over.

The secrecy, the lack of a defense and the charges of which the deposed leader is accused have caused criticism and concern to skyrocket at this closed-door process.

Mass protests were taking place Wednesday across Myanmar, a day after elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi was slapped with another charge amid fears of a crackdown by security forces.

While overnight internet blackouts and a military presence in Yangon reduced protester numbers earlier this week, activists involved in the 1998 uprising urged youth, especially, to take part in mass demonstrations on Wednesday against the Feb. 1 military coup and the detention of elected leaders.

On Tuesday afternoon, police slapped Suu Kyi with a second charge, and she appeared in court via video conference ahead of schedule and without the knowledge or representation of a lawyer. She had been remanded until Wednesday.

Emerging after a third night of total internet blackout, tens of thousands of people voiced their anger across Yangon on Wednesday with the main demonstrations downtown near Sule Pagoda, outside the United Nations office and at the University of Yangon. There appeared to be no interference by authorities by mid-afternoon.

Private cars, taxis and even a bus were abandoned with their bonnets up in the middle of roads on the pretext that they had broken down, in order to block the passage of police and military vehicles.

A banner hung from a footbridge read: “We will never kneel down under the military boots,” while other signs read “Free our leader,” “Respect our votes” and “End the dictatorship.”

Tens of thousands were also protesting in capital Naypyitaw, while troops were deployed in Mandalay before demonstrators marched there, local media reported.

“Despite the fact that I was sick from having been out in the sun for several days due to the protests, a friend reminded me that attendance was dropping in the last two days so this morning I got up at 6am and here I am. We need to show the world that we are strong,” an assistant to the protest near the University of Yangon told EFE.

The protests took place Wednesday after the military cut off internet access for about eight hours for the third consecutive night, while access to various social networks, such as Facebook or Twitter, continues to be restricted.

Tom Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, said that “Wednesday has the potential for violence on a greater scale in Myanmar than we have seen since the illegal takeover of the government on Feb. 1.”

“I have received reports of soldiers being transported into at least Yangon from outlying regions. In the past, such troop movements preceded killings, disappearances, and detentions on a mass scale,” Andrews said.

“I am terrified that given the confluence of these two developments – planned mass protests and troops converging – we could be on the precipice of the military committing even greater crimes against the people of Myanmar,” he added in a statement.

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