Junta imposes gag order


Ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi testified in court for the first time in one of several cases against her, but details of what she said were not available because of a gag order on her lawyers.

Since last week, all defence lawyers in Suu Kyi’s cases have been barred from providing details of the court proceedings.

The action was taken under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, a broadly worded statute from British colonial times intended to deal with emergency situations that threaten public safety. There have been no signs of unrest related to any of her trials.

The only accounts of the proceedings had previously come from lawyers defending her and her co-defendants.

The court sessions are closed to reporters and the public, the prosecutors do not comment on them, and the state-controlled media have not reported directly on them.

Maj GenZaw Min Tun, the spokesperson for the military government, said earlier this month after the gag order was imposed on Suu Kyi’s main lawyer that it was imposed because he had incited local and foreign media to spread false information that could destabilise the country.

A person familiar with the legal proceedings confirmed that Suu Kyi testified on Tuesday at the special court session in the capital, Naypyitaw, but could not provide details. The source asked not to be identified because of fear of legal action or harassment.

The court has been hearing testimony related to the charge of incitement, which is sometimes referred to as sedition.

The offense is defined as spreading false or inflammatory information that could disturb public order, and is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment.

Suu Kyi’s co-defendants in the case are Win Myint, who was president in her government, and Naypyitaw’s former mayor, Myo Aung.

Their lawyers have repeatedly tried but failed to have the incitement charge dropped.

The evidence submitted by the prosecution consists of statements posted on a Facebook page of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party.

The lawyers for Suu Kyi and Win Myint have said they can not be held responsible for the statements – which criticised the takeover and suggested in broad terms that it be resisted – because they were already in detention.

Suu Kyi has been detained since Feb 1, when the army seized power and stopped her and her party from beginning a second five-year term in power after a landslide victory in last November’s general election.

The military says it acted because there was large-scale electoral fraud, an allegation that does not appear to be well-supported. — AP

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