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Burma Won't Let Jailed Member Have

RANGOON, Dec 2 (Reuters) - Eight jailed members of Burma's leading opposition
party have been denied the right to hire lawyers for their defence, the
National League for Democracy (NLD) said on Tuesday. 

The NLD said eight party members, who were arrested last month in connection
with NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi's organisational trips to some townships,
were not allowed to defend themselves in hearings on Tuesday. 

``As it was learnt that the case would be heard on December 2, 1997,
respective lawyers and family members of (the detainees) went to the Insein
Prison at 0900 today,'' an NLD statement said. 

But it said prison officials did not permit the lawyers to defend the NLD
members nor allow the family members to see the detainees. It said the
decision was made in an order by ``higher authorities.'' 

Government officials could not be reached for comment. 

``Hearing of the cases should be carried out in the presence of the public
and the right of defence through the lawyers must be allowed according to the
Judiciary Law enacted by the State Law and Order Restoration Council
(SLORC),'' the NLD statement said. 

The SLORC was the previous military government that ruled Burma with an iron
hand since seizing power in 1988. The SLORC was dissolved last month and a
new ruling body, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), was set up
and led by the same four top generals. 

The SPDC has not made any policy changes since taking power. 

The eight NLD members, three of whom were elected as members of parliament in
an annulled 1990 election, were arrested on October 28 for their roles in
political gatherings the party and Suu Kyi tried to organise in some of
Rangoon's suburban townships. 

After the government allowed one meeting to take place, it prevented the rest
by setting up barricades and trucking away party supporters who had gathered
at various party headquarters. 

One of the eight detainees was Dr Than Nyein, brother-in-law of powerful SPDC
Secretary One, Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt. 

Than Nyein was one of the NLD members elected as an MP in the 1990 election.
Although the SLORC called the poll, which the NLD won by a landslide, it
never accepted the results. 

Than Nyein was previously arrested early this year for violating a law
regarding registration of private clinics. He was fined and released after
being held briefly. 

The arrest was seen by some analysts as a test of the strength of Khin Nyunt
-- head of military intelligence. It came amid talk of a split within the
SLORC between Khin Nyunt and his followers and a hardline faction.