Page last updated at 08:45 GMT, Monday, 29 June 2009 09:45 UK

Legal setback for Suu Kyi defence

By Jonathan Head
BBC News, Bangkok

Aung San Suu Kyi meets Thai, Singapore and Russian diplomats, 20 May
Aung San Suu Kyi's trial began in May, but has been repeatedly delayed

Burma's highest court has rejected an appeal by lawyers for opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to allow two prominent dissidents to testify in her defence.

Ms Suu Kyi is on trial for allowing a US man to stay in her home last month, after he swam there across a lake.

Her lawyers wanted four witnesses but have been allowed only two.

The trial has been widely condemned as a ploy to keep Ms Suu Kyi locked up until after next year's elections, the first in 20 years.

The trial has also cast doubt on a planned visit to Burma by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

Government ruse?

Burma's Supreme Court accepted the prosecution's argument that witnesses for Aung San Suu Kyi's defence could not be allowed to appear in court as they are government critics, and one is being held under house arrest.

Ibrahim Gambari - 12/2/2009
Mr Gambari has been trying to plan a possible visit by Ban Ki-Moon

The machinations of Burma's court system are in any case immaterial to many outside observers, who believe the entire case against Ms Suu Kyi has been cooked up as a ruse to keep her in custody.

She is being charged with failing to evict an uninvited visitor to her lakeside home, where she has been held for 14 of the past 20 years.

The court case will now proceed later this week, and is widely expected to deliver a guilty verdict against the opposition leader.

But it is taking much longer than expected, with the authorities allowing far more "due process" than they normally do during dissidents' trials.

The government seems to have been taken by surprise by the storm of international protest over its treatment of Ms Suu Kyi.

Her trial presents a dilemma for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who has been invited to visit Burma next month.

He is known to want to sustain a dialogue with the country's isolated military rulers, but risks being condemned if he comes away from a visit with no concessions.

Special envoy Ibrahim Gambari has just left Burma after spending two days negotiating the terms of Mr Ban's visit - it still is not clear whether it will go ahead.

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