Myanmar issues gag order on senior lawyer defending ousted leader Suu Kyi

News of the gag order circulated late Thursday night, when government officials could not be contacted for comment

The main lawyer for Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is being tried on multiple criminal charges, said late Thursday he has been issued a gag order barring him from talking about her cases.

Lawyer Khin Maung Zaw wrote on his Facebook page that the action against him was taken under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, a broadly worded statute from British colonial times intended to deal with emergency situations that threats to public safety.

Also read: ‘Unwell’ Aung San Suu Kyi skips Myanmar trial hearing

“My mouth is under 144,“ is how he explained his situation.

The law is normally used to restrict public gatherings and impose curfews, and has been employed that way by the military after it ousted Ms. Suu Kyi’s elected government in February.

Kyi Win, another lawyer on Ms. Suu Kyi’s legal team, told The Associated Press that the township office in the capital Naypyitaw, where Suu Kyi is being tried, summoned Khin Maung Zaw to have him sign an undertaking not to reveal information to the media.

Also read: Ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi on trial; critics say charges bogus

News of the gag order circulated late Thursday night, when government officials could not be contacted for comment.

The practical effect of the order will be to choke off almost any first-hand accounts of the ongoing trials in which Ms. Suu Kyi and her co-defendants are involved.

The only accounts of the proceedings have come from the lawyers defending her and her co-defendants.

The court sessions are closed to reporters and the public, the prosecutors do not comment on them, and the state-controlled media so far have not reported directly on them.

“The military council now is blocking one lawyer after another,” Kyi Win said, referring to the ruling junta. “We do not know what will happen next.” In August, San Mar La Nyunt, another of Ms. Suu Kyi’s lawyers, was also forced to agree to a gag order banning her from speaking to the media.

Ms. Suu Kyi’s supporters and independent analysts say the charges against her are concocted to discredit her and legitimize the military’s seizure of power.

The most serious charges are corruption, for which each count is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, and violating the Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum term of 14 years.

Ms. Suu Kyi’s co-defendants in the secrets case are three of her former Cabinet Ministers and Sean Turnell, an Australian economist who served as her adviser.

Mr. Turnell’s lawyer, Ye Lin Aung, said the court in Naypyitaw handling the case agreed in principle on Thursday to allow an interpreter at the upcoming trial, reversing its own ruling of a week earlier, when it had denied one for what it said were security reasons.

The exact details of Mr. Turnell’s alleged offense and those of the others have not been made public, though Myanmar state television, citing government statements, has said the Australian academic had access to “secret state financial information” and had tried to flee the country.

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