Myanmar court will hear appeal of democracy leader

Myanmar's highest court has agreed to hear a final appeal to release opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, her lawyers said Thursday, pressing forward with the case despite her scheduled release in less than a month.

The lawyers will give their argument before the Special Appellate Bench in the new capital of Naypyitaw on Oct. 29, one of her lawyers, Khin Htay Kywe, told The Associated Press. She said the date was posted at the High Court Thursday after the chamber agreed Wednesday night to accept the appeal.

The Nobel Peace laureate has already lost two appeals. Her 18-month house arrest is set to expire on Nov. 13, a week after the country's first election in two decades. There is widespread speculation the junta will release the 65-year-old as an olive branch to the international community after the polls, which it is expected to win.

"We believe that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will be released on Nov. 13, but we are pursuing this legal battle to prove her innocence," another of her lawyers, Nyan Win, told reporters. He said he was "optimistic" that the five-judge panel would overturn lower courts' rulings against his client.

Khin Htay Kywe said the court usually renders its decisions within two to three weeks of hearing cases.

But a quick ruling granting Suu Kyi an early release would appear unlikely, since court decisions almost invariably favor the government. Granting her freedom would appear to threaten the junta's carefully crafted plans for an orderly election by putting the spotlight on her and her now-disbanded party's boycott of the polls, which the party claims are unfair and undemocratic.

This will be Suu Kyi's last legal option in her bid to overturn her 2009 conviction for violating the terms of her house arrest for briefly sheltering an American who swam uninvited to her home. She has spent most of the past 15 years under house arrest.

Her trial drew global condemnation and her conviction was widely viewed as designed to keep her detained through the polls.

Suu Kyi's lawyers have argued that her house arrest was unlawful since it was based on provisions of the 1974 constitution, which was abolished after a ruling military junta seized power in 1988, said Nyan Win.

Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been under military rule since 1962. The elections of 1990 were swept by Suu Kyi's party but the military refused to relinquish power.