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Diplomats and journalists allowed access to Suu Kyi trial

(Mizzima/IFEX) - In a surprise move, on 20 May 2009 Burmese authorities allowed 30 foreign diplomats and ten journalists into the special court in Insein Prison, prompting defense counsels of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to label the proceedings a "half-open court".

Though the motivation behind permitting the foreign diplomats and journalists into the courtroom remains unclear, Nyan Win, one of the defense counsels and spokesperson for the National League for Democracy (NLD), said, "We welcome the move, and would like to see more openness."

He said authorities on 18 May rejected their appeal to conduct the trial in an open court but that the admittance of the diplomats on 20 May is certainly an improvement.

After the court session, three diplomats - a Russian, a Thai and a Singaporean - were invited to a special meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, Nyan Win added.

As for the ten journalists - five local representatives of foreign news outlets and five local journalists - they have to thank their luck as the authorities selected them in a lucky-draw.

One of the stringers for a foreign news outlet who was among the ten journalists allowed inside the courtroom said he is not sure whether any journalists would be allowed in again for the next hearing.

He said they were unable to talk to Aung San Suu Kyi separately and were banned from carrying recorders and cameras. They were only able to talk to the diplomats, who, like them, were allowed inside the courtroom.

"Aung San Suu Kyi looks good, composed and steady. We could see her but could not talk to her," the correspondent said.

With the next hearing fixed for 21 May, Nyan Win said the trial is being conducted on a day-to-day basis, indicating the authority's desire not to prolong the case.

"We can say that the trial is being conducted in a speedy manner," said Nyan Win, adding that if the trial is being conducted at this speed, the court could come to a verdict by three weeks' time.

He said there are 20 witnesses that the prosecution has submitted, out of which eight have thus far been cross examined.

Nyan Win said, strangely, security around Insein Prison was less visible on 20 May, though the roads remained blocked with barbwire barricades.

"I did not see many security forces on our way to Insein, but I think the security personnel are in plainclothes and are mostly keeping away from the main road," he speculated.

The NLD, Aung San Suu Kyi's party, meanwhile issued a statement on 20 May demanding public access to the court.

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