By GRANT PECK, BANGKOK (AP):- A court in Myanmar postponed its verdict on Tuesday in the trial of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi to allow testimony from an additional witness, a senior member of her political party.
The court agreed with a defense motion that it allow Zaw Myint Maung, who had previously been unable to come to court for health reasons, to add his testimony, a legal official said.
The court had been scheduled to deliver a verdict on Tuesday on charges of incitement and violating coronavirus restrictions.
The verdict would have been the first for the 76-year-old Nobel laureate since the army seized power on Feb. 1, arresting her and blocking her National League for Democracy party from starting a second term in office.
She also is being tried on a series of other charges, including corruption, that could send her to prison for dozens of years if convicted.
State television on Tuesday night announced a sixth charge of corruption filed against Suu Kyi. She is already being tried on four such charges with a fifth pending trial, and each charge is punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment and a fine.
The new charge accuses her and former President Win Myint of violating the Anti-Corruption Law in connection with granting permits to rent and buy a helicopter.
The judge adjourned the proceedings until Dec. 6, when Zaw Myint Maung is scheduled to testify, said the legal official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the government has restricted the release of information about the trial. It was unclear when a verdict will be issued.
The cases are widely seen as contrived to discredit Suu Kyi and keep her from running in the next election. The constitution bars anyone sentenced to prison from holding high office or becoming a lawmaker.
Zaw Myint Maung, who was chief minister of the Mandalay region, a major state-level post, was also detained when the army took over. He is vice chairman of Suu Kyi’s party and a medical doctor, and like her faces several criminal charges, including corruption. He is 69 years old and reportedly suffers from leukemia.
He accompanied Suu Kyi during campaigning for last year’s election, including in Naypyitaw, where her presence was the basis for one of the charges of violating coronavirus restrictions.
Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide victory in last year’s polls. The army, whose allied party lost many seats, claimed there was massive voting fraud, but independent election observers did not detect any major irregularities.
Suu Kyi remains widely popular and a symbol of the struggle against military rule.
The army’s takeover was met by nationwide nonviolent demonstrations which security forces quashed with deadly force, killing nearly 1,300 civilians, according to a tally by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
With severe restrictions on nonviolent protest, armed resistance has grown in the cities and the countryside to the point where U.N. experts have warned the country is sliding into civil war.
Suu Kyi, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her nonviolent struggle for democracy, has not been seen in public since being taken into custody on the day of the military’s takeover. She has appeared in court at several of her trials, which are closed to the media and spectators.
In October, Suu Kyi’s lawyers, who had been the sole source of information on the legal proceedings, were served with gag orders forbidding them from releasing information.
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