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Aung San Suu Kyi's court hearing postponed over Myanmar Internet block

Aung San Suu Kyi's court hearing postponed over Myanmar Internet block

FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators hold placards with the image of Aung San Suu Kyi during a protest against the military coup, in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, on Feb 15, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer)

YANGON: A block on mobile data networks across Myanmar on Monday (Mar 15) scuppered a scheduled video court appearance by ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as protesters returned to the streets after the bloodiest day since the military coup six weeks ago.

At least 44 protesters were killed on Sunday as security forces cracked down on pro-democracy demonstrations, taking the death toll since the coup to more than 120, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) monitoring group.

Myanmar has been in uproar since the putsch, with daily protests demanding a restoration of democracy despite the junta's increasingly forceful attempts to quell dissent.

READ: At least 18 killed in Myanmar's anti-coup protests; martial law imposed in Yangon district

READ: At least 39 reported killed in Myanmar in bloodiest day since start of military coup

The court hearing for Aung San Suu Kyi - who spent more than 15 years under house arrest during previous military rule - was scheduled for 10am in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw, but it was postponed until Mar 24, her lawyer Khin Maung Zaw told AFP.

"There's no court hearing because there's no Internet and the hearing is conducted by video conference ... We cannot do video," he said.

Myanmar authorities have throttled the Internet every night for several weeks, normally restoring services in the morning, but monitoring service Netblocks said mobile data networks were kept offline Monday.

READ: Myanmar's UN ambassador urges stronger international response, vows to continue to 'fight back' against the junta

READ: Myanmar military likely behind 'crimes against humanity': UN expert

Suu Kyi faces at least four charges: Possessing unlicensed walkie-talkies, violating coronavirus restrictions, breaching telecommunications laws, and intent to cause public unrest.

Military authorities have also accused her of accepting illegal payments of US$600,000 in cash as well as a large quantity of gold - allegations her lawyer says are "groundless".

READ: More protests held in Myanmar as Aung San Suu Kyi's lawyer dismisses bribery claims

Khin Maung Zaw had previously complained he was not allowed to meet Suu Kyi, who has been in custody since the coup, and on Monday said police have appointed two junior lawyers on his team to have the power of attorney.

"The police have no right to decide who represents the defendants," he said, adding that the whole situation is "strange" - from the lack of Wi-Fi in the court to the appointment of junior lawyers.

Aung San Suu Kyi's postponed hearing came a day after violent clashes between security forces and protesters, and the torching of several Chinese-owned factories in a textile-producing district of commercial hub Yangon as many protesters believe Beijing is supportive of the coup.

Source: AFP/ga

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