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We are prepared for the worst: Lawyer of Myanmar’s Suu Kyi

Protesters hold signs calling for the release of detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, February 17, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

The lawyer of Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi says he is preparing ‘for the worst,’ expressing his fear of a prolonged trial.

“We hope for the best, but are prepared for the worst,” Attorney Khin Maung Zaw told AFP on Wednesday by phone.

The military seized power after detaining Suu Kyi and her associates on February 1 over accusations of voter fraud in favor of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party in the November 2020 elections.

The military placed commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing in power and pledged to hold fresh elections in a year and hand over power to the winner.

After her detention, Suu Kyi was hit with an obscure charge under the country's import and export law for possessing unregistered walkie-talkies at her home.

A second charge was filed against her this week under natural disaster management laws. Suu Kyi is accused of holding an election campaign event last year which the junta claims breached coronavirus restriction measures.

The lawyer said he applied on Wednesday for permission to speak to his client and receive instructions ahead of the next trial session. “When will this be granted? I don't know.”

He noted that he has not been allowed to meet Suu Kyi in person and is worried about the secrecy of their discussions over video or telephone.

“It's more appropriate to meet with her in person without being interfered by anyone.”

Suu Kyi will appear in the next court hearing, which is scheduled for March 1 and at which the complexity of case would be discussed, via video conference.

According to the lawyer, the case could be wrapped up in six months if it is sorted as simple, but it can take a year or more if considered more complex.

Answering a question whether there was a danger of long delays, Khin Maung Zaw said, "In this country anything can happen."

A United Nations special envoy has decried the "secretive trial" of Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, who has also been charged under natural disaster management laws.

The army spokesman, Zaw Min Tun, said on Tuesday the pair are in a "safer place" and "in good health."

"It's not like they were arrested – they are staying at their houses."

Also on Wednesday, tens of thousands of people staged demonstrations across the country against the coup, the largest since the military seized power.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group, over 450 people have been detained since February 1.

The military takeover has of power triggered widespread international condemnation.

Myanmar was ruled by the military from 1962 until 2011, when Suu Kyi ended the junta rule.

Her international reputation, however, has been tarnished because she defended a military campaign against the minority Rohingya Muslim community in 2017.

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