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26 February 2010

Myanmar's Suu Kyi may be released - lawyer

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A lawyer for detained Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said he is optimistic that Myanmar's highest court will grant an appeal to free her, reported the Associated Press.

Others believe the Supreme Court is more likely to reject the appeal Friday, because legal rulings in the military-controlled state rarely favor opposition activists. But Nyan Win, also a spokesman for Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party, says he expects the court will accept her legal arguments.

Suu Kyi has been detained for 14 of the past 20 years.

Her lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court in November last year after a lower court upheld a decision to sentence her to 18 months of house arrest. She was convicted in August last year of violating the terms of her previous detention by briefly sheltering an American who swam uninvited to her lakeside home.

The 64-year-old Nobel Peace Laureate was initially sentenced to three years in prison with hard labor, in a trial that drew global condemnation, but that sentence was immediately commuted to 18 months of house arrest by junta chief Senior Gen. Than Shwe.

"We strongly believe that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will be acquitted. We have presented strong legal points during our final argument last month," Nyan Win told The Associated Press. He said that if the court rules in her favor, "She will be a free person as soon as the warrant is read out to her." 'Daw' is a term of respect used for older women.

Others are more skeptical.

Aung Thein, a lawyer experienced in political cases, has cautioned that he didn't think the Supreme Court would overturn the lower court rulings. "Executive power supersedes the Supreme Court," he said.

The Supreme Court ruling comes nearly two weeks after the ruling junta released the 82-year-old Tin Oo, deputy leader of Suu Kyi's party, after nearly seven years in detention, and a week after a U.N. human rights envoy left the country, expressing disappointment that he was not allowed to meet the opposition leader.

Soon after his release Tin Oo said he was very hopeful that Suu Kyi would be released soon, noting that in 1995 he was released from an earlier stint in prison not long before Suu Kyi herself was freed.

During a meeting with her lawyers Thursday, Suu Kyi jokingly asked them if she had been behaving well, as junta chief Than Shwe had said she could receive amnesty if she serves her time according to the prescribed regulations.


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