YANGON, Myanmar (AFP) — A judge on Monday ordered Myanmar's deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi to appear in person in court for the first time on May 24, her lawyer said, after weeks of delays in her case.
The Nobel laureate has not been seen in public since she was detained in a February 1 coup, when the military ousted her from power and re-installed its rule.
She was subsequently hit with a series of charges, and her legal team has faced an uphill battle to get a private audience with their client.
Multiple court hearings in the capital Naypyidaw have seen Suu Kyi -- who attended via video conferencing from under house arrest -- express frustration at the pace of the proceedings.
During the latest hearing Monday, a judge ordered her cases to be heard with her present in a special courtroom near her residence.
"She will appear in person in court on May 24," lawyer Khin Maung Zaw told AFP.
However, he cautioned that the outstanding issue of not being able to meet privately with her still remains.
"The problem is not solved yet because the police did not answer on whether they can arrange our meeting," he said, adding that private counsel is "the right of the defendant".
The 75-year-old former leader has been charged six times since her arrest.
The charges include flouting coronavirus restrictions during last year's election campaign and possessing unlicensed walkie-talkies.
The most serious charge alleges that she violated the country's colonial-era Official Secrets Act -- a case that is pending in a court in the commercial hub Yangon.
– Gold bars claim –
The junta has also accused her of corruption -- though no charges have been filed -- alleging that she received bribes of gold bars and cash.
The junta has continuously justified her arrest and the coup as a way to defend democracy, alleging electoral fraud by her National League for Democracy Party, which swept November's elections in a landslide.
Coupmaker Min Aung Hlaing, the army's commander-in-chief, is now leading the junta, and holds legislative, executive and judicial powers in Myanmar.
Mass protests have continued since the coup, with hundreds of thousands defying junta rule to demand a return to democracy and the release of Suu Kyi.
They have been met with live ammunition from security forces -- at least 780 civilians have been killed in brutal crackdowns, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a local monitoring group.
The coup and its aftermath have also seen a spike in clashes between the military and Myanmar's numerous ethnic rebel armies, sending tens of thousands of civilians fleeing their homes.
Thai authorities said on Monday that about 2,000 people who had crossed the border to escape air strikes in Myanmar's eastern Karen state had returned voluntarily.
Activists have questioned just how willingly such returns have been made in the past, and Naw K'nyaw Paw of Karen Women's Organisation accused the Thai authorities of intimidatory tactics.
© Agence France-Presse
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