A lawyer for Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi expressed hope Friday that she will win her appeal for release from house arrest, even though the country's courts have a record of favoring the government in political cases.
"We are optimistic that (Suu Kyi) will be acquitted," Kyi Win said after returning from the administrative capital of Naypyitaw, where her legal team presented its arguments to the Special Appellate Bench. The team is pressing her case even though she is scheduled to be released in two weeks.
Another of her lawyers, Nyan Win, said before presenting arguments to the three-judge panel that Suu Kyi's acquittal "would be a good example that rule of law prevails in the country."
The 65-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner has been detained for 15 of the past 21 years but was never convicted of any crime until August 2009. She was sentenced to 18 months of detention for violating her house arrest by briefly sheltering an uninvited American who swam to her home.
The trial sparked global outrage and her conviction was widely viewed as designed to keep her detained through the country's first elections in two decades on Nov. 7.
Suu Kyi has already lost two appeals and lawyers are exercising their final legal option with the Special Appellate Bench.
Kyi Win argued that Suu Kyi had not broken her house arrest rules and that her detention was illegal.
The lawyer said the court usually takes some time to give its decision but expected it to "treat Suu Kyi's as a special case" and issue a ruling next week.
A quick ruling granting Suu Kyi an early release would appear unlikely, since the court almost invariably rules in favor of the government. Granting her freedom would appear to threaten the junta's plans for an orderly election by putting the spotlight on her and her now-disbanded party's boycott of the polls, which the party said are unfair and undemocratic.
Suu Kyi's 18-month house arrest is set to expire Nov. 13, a week after the election, and there is widespread speculation the junta will release her after its expected victory.
Her lawyers have argued that her house arrest is unlawful since it is based on provisions of the 1974 constitution, which was abolished by the military in 1988, Nyan Win said.
Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been under military rule since 1962. The last elections in 1990 were won by Suu Kyi's party but the military refused to relinquish power.