As the Junta muzzles lawyers, Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi pleads not guilty to incitement 

Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyidaw, Aug. 12, 2019. (RFA)

According to individuals familiar with the case, Myanmar's jailed State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi pled not guilty to accusations of public incitement in a hearing that the Junta has forbidden her legal team from discussing with the media, citing concerns that doing so could "destabilize the country."

A source close to the proceedings told RFA's Myanmar Service that the Nobel laureate, who was arrested on Feb. 1 when the army deposed her National League for Democracy (NLD) government in a coup, had her first chance to defend herself at the special court in the capital Naypyidaw against charges under Section 505 (b) of Myanmar's Penal Code.

The military prevented all five lawyers on Aung San Suu Kyi's legal team from dealing with the media under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Therefore details of the hearing were not immediately available.

Former President Win Myint and Naypyidaw Mayor Myo Aung, co-defendants in the case, announced earlier this month that they had opted to fight the allegations.

According to Khin Maung Myint, a Yangon-based high court lawyer, the military's unlawful decision to keep Aung San Suu Kyi's case hidden from the public.

"Without a restraining order, a lawyer or anyone else should be able to speak out about the case's developments," he said.

"A person can be prosecuted under the Contempt of Court Act if they criticize the quality of the case or speak disrespectfully of those involved, witnesses, or the court. Otherwise, the implementation of Section 144, which denies citizens access to information, is unconstitutional."

The decision to bar Aung San Suu Kyi's counsel from speaking to reporters comes after a court hearing on Oct. 12. Former President Win Myint testified that the military compelled him to resign on the coup day while defending himself against Section 505 allegations (b).

Following defense lawyer Khin Maung Zaw's media revelation of the hearing, the Junta forbade four of Win Myint's legal team members from speaking out about the case: Khin Maung Zaw, Thair Maung Maung, Kyi Win, and Min Min Soe.

Authorities in Yangon forced another defense team member, San Marlar Nyunt, to sign a vow not to do interviews or contact the media or any foreign groups in August.

RFA's Kyee Myint, a veteran high court lawyer, told RFA that prohibiting all lawyers from speaking to the media was improper and amounted to flagrant meddling with the courts.

"The 2008 Constitution expressly states that the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government must operate independently," he stated.

"In a response to Aung San Suu Kyi, the judge of the court stated that lawyers could discuss the hearings, and thus the executive branch's order could be seen as interference."

Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, a spokesman for the Junta, told RFA that the lawyers' words "will not contribute to the country's stability."

"Some statements made in court have been exaggerated—some cases appear to have been misrepresented," he stated.

"We have information teams, even at the district level, to speak about legal cases, and they will act appropriately when needed."

'Illegal and undemocratic actions'

Lawyers and political analysts, on the other hand, disagreed with Junta's argument.

"Part of a political plot to imprison Aung San Suu Kyi and other top party leaders," political analyst Than Soe Naing said.

"In terms of politics, [the junta] is hell-bent on crushing the NLD leadership, including Aung San Suu Kyi," he stated.

"Decisions are made based on that line of reasoning. They don't have the legal authority to do so, but they continue to do so. These are all politically motivated, undemocratic and illegal actions."

According to Than Soe Naing, political injustices will continue as long as military rule exists.

The prohibition was described as "a deliberate move" by Kyaw Thiha, a member of the NLD Central Committee.

"They don't want Aung San Suu Kyi's words to be heard here." "The president's [recent] statements to the outside world have severely harmed them," he stated.

"They can't handle the lawyers accurately relaying the leaders' brave words to the public." They are terrified that if the truth is revealed, the entire country will become unstable."

If the current situation continues, Kyaw Thiha believes the country will be "headed for total annihilation" because the military is "doing whatever it wants without regard for democratic rights."

According to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, security forces have killed 1,218 civilians and imprisoned at least 7,026, primarily during crackdowns on anti-junta protesters, over nine months following the military's Feb. 1 coup.

The Junta claims it deposed the NLD administration because it used widespread voter fraud to win a landslide victory in Myanmar's November 2020 election. It has failed to prove its assertions, and public discontent is at an all-time high.

Due to her ailing health, Aung San Suu Kyi requested court hearings on the cases she faces being held every other week rather than weekly, but the judge denied her request.

Publish : 2021-10-28 13:11:00

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