Junta court delays verdicts in Suu Kyi’s walkie-talkie case, again

A Naypyitaw court on Monday again postponed the verdicts against detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi concerning two charges of possessing illegally imported walkie-talkies seized during a pre-dawn raid on her residence in the capital on February 1, according to court sources.

The ousted State Counsellor was charged under the Export and Import Law and the Telecommunications Law and faces up to four years in prison if convicted of the offences. 

The verdicts were originally postponed from last week until Monday, with judge Maung Maung Lwin now announcing that the verdicts will be delayed once again until January 10. 

No reason for the postponements had been provided at the time of reporting. 

The junta alleged that its security forces found the “illegal” communications devices during a raid on Suu Kyi’s home on the day of a military coup that toppled her elected National League for Democracy (NLD) government.  

Testimony provided by the junta’s prosecution witnesses during cross-examination was “conflicting,” the legal defence team previously said. Five people testified on behalf of the prosecution: a military major, two captains, a sergeant and a police major. Four said that the walkie-talkies were found inside Suu Kyi’s home, but the fifth said that they were confiscated from her security team at the gate leading into the residential compound, according to court sources.

The claim that the devices were seized from the security team aligns with what was written in documents submitted to the court after the State Counsellor’s arrest. However, Maj Win Htut Oo, who led the raid on Suu Kyi’s residence, testified in July that no security personnel were present at the time. 

Along with deposed President Win Myint, Suu Kyi received a four-year conviction in early December for incitement and the violation of Covid-19 public health restrictions during last year’s election campaign. 

The junta later cut their sentences in half and said that the two leaders would be serving the remaining two years of their sentences at their undisclosed “current place of detention,” contrary to the standard practice of moving prisoners once they have been convicted.

Suu Kyi is still awaiting decisions on the rest of her 10 total cases, including six concerning alleged corruption

At Monday’s hearing, the judge heard the testimony of Mandalay Region’s ousted chief minister, Dr Zaw Myint Maung, under a video conferencing arrangement for another charge filed in April against Suu Kyi also concerning the alleged violation of public health restrictions. 

Suu Kyi, chair of the NLD, was accused by a Naypyitaw resident and former NLD member Tun Myint Aung of violating health-related restrictions by visiting her party members in Naypyitaw’s Zabuthiri Township amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Zaw Myint Maung also accompanied Suu Kyi on the trip. 

The 70-year-old chief minister, who is being detained in Mandalay’s Obo Prison, was named by Suu Kyi’s lawyers as the sole defence witness in the case. The junta repeatedly barred him from travelling to Naypyitaw to take the stand on the pretext that he was in poor health due to an ongoing battle with leukemia. 

“He seemed to be well. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Dr Zaw Myint Maung greeted each other on screen,” a court source told Myanmar Now.

The next hearing for the case is scheduled for next Monday and will feature both sides’ closing arguments.

Myanmar Now was unable to contact Suu Kyi’s legal team for details on Zaw Myint Maung’s testimony as the junta has imposed gag orders on her lawyers.

The junta announced in mid-November that it would prosecute Suu Kyi and 15 other individuals including President Win Myint, NLD-appointed chief ministers and election commission officials, on charges of voter fraud in the 2020 election, which her party won in a landslide.

At the time of reporting, the charges had not been officially raised in court for Suu Kyi and or Win Myint. 

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