For the first time in nearly four months, Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Myanmar's ousted government, was seen in person when she appeared briefly in a largely procedural hearing in a court in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, on Monday.
State TV MRTV broadcast the first photo of Suu Kyi, 75, since the Feb. 1 coup, on its evening news program. Alongside were two co-defendants, former President Win Myint and Myo Aung, former mayor of Naypyitaw, Myanmar’s capital.
Many of Myanmar's political leaders were jailed after a military coup in February after Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide victory in a general election that would have granted it a second five-year term.
She now faces a raft of charges that could leave her imprisoned for life. The United Nations says those charges are politically motivated.
Suu Kyi’s ousting sparked pro-democracy demonstrations that have been repressed with violence by authorities. Over 800 people have died in clashes.
Suu Kyi's only previous court appearances have been by video link and she had not been allowed to meet in person with any of her lawyers. On Monday, she was allowed to meet with her legal team for the first time, including attorney Khin Maung Zaw.
The defense lawyers said their discussions with Suu Kyi adressed all the charges against her.
Khin Maung Zaw spoke to The World’s host Carol Hills about the challenges of representing Suu Kyi.
"...[I]t was difficult for us to be regarded as officially appointed lawyers of Aung Sang Suu Kyi. We didn't have any access to her. We didn't have any contact with her to discuss the case, only yesterday. We have one chance to meet with her in person and to discuss the case and get her instructions. So it's hard to tell that the case will be a fair trial."
"As lawyers, Myanmar lawyers, you need to trust our judiciary. But it was difficult for us to be regarded as officially appointed lawyers of Aung Sang Suu Kyi. We didn't have any access to her. We didn't have any contact with her to discuss the case, only yesterday. We have one chance to meet with her in person and to discuss the case and get her instructions. So it's hard to tell that the case will be a fair trial," Maung Zaw told The World.
Suu Kyi also faces two counts of violating the Natural Disaster Management Law for allegedly rebuking COVID-19 pandemic restrictions during the 2020 election campaign; illegally importing walkie-talkies that for her bodyguards; and unlicensed use of the radios.
Suu Kyi's most serious charge is breaching the colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which carries a penalty of up to 14 years’ imprisonment, but that is being handled by a separate court.
Suu Kyi’s supporters say the proceedings are politically motivated and are meant to discredit her and legitimize the military’s seizure of power. If convicted of any of the offenses, she could be banned from running in the election that the junta has pledged to hold within one or two years of its takeover.
Click on the play button above to hear the full interview with attorney Khin Maung Zaw.
AP contributed to this report.