Aung San Suu Kyi: Ousted Myanmar leader jailed for another four years

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 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

A court in Myanmar has sentenced ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi to four more years in prison.

She was found guilty of illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies and violating coronavirus restrictions, a legal official said.

The charges are among about a dozen brought against the 76-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate since the army seized power last February, ousting her elected government.

If found guilty of all the charges, that she denies, she could be sentenced to more than 100 years in prison.

Suu Kyi was convicted last month on two other charges -incitement and breaching Covid-19 restrictions - and given a four-year prison sentence, which was then halved by the head of the military-installed government.

Her supporters say the charges against her are contrived to legitimise the military’s actions and prevent her from returning to politics.

Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide victory in a 2020 general election, but the military claimed there was widespread electoral fraud, an assertion that independent poll watchers doubt.

Monday’s verdict in the court in the capital, Naypyitaw, was conveyed by a legal official who insisted on anonymity for fear of being punished by the authorities, who have restricted the release of information about Suu Kyi’s trials.

It is believed that Monday’s charges stem from when soldiers searched her house on the day of the coup by forces led by General Min Aung Hlaing, when they said they discovered the devices.

In this file photo taken on March 13, 2021, a protester holds a poster with an image of detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a candlelight vigil to honour those who have died during demonstrations against the military coup in Yangon. (AFP via Getty Images)
In this file photo taken on March 13, 2021, a protester holds a poster with an image of detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a candlelight vigil to honour those who have died during demonstrations against the military coup in Yangon. (AFP via Getty Images)

Since her first guilty verdict, Suu Kyi has been attending court hearings in prison clothes - a white top and a brown longyi skirt provided by the authorities.

She is being held by the military at an unknown location, where state television reported last month she would serve her sentence.

The hearings are closed to the media and spectators and the prosecutors do not comment. Her lawyers, who had been a source of information on the proceedings, were served with gag orders in October.

The military-installed government has not allowed any outside party to meet with Suu Kyi since it seized power, despite international pressure for talks including her that could ease the country’s violent political crisis.

The military’s seizure of power was quickly met by nonviolent nationwide demonstrations, which security forces quashed with deadly force, killing over 1,400 civilians, according to a detailed list compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

Peaceful protests have continued, but amid the severe crackdown, an armed resistance has also grown, to the point that UN experts have warned the country could be sliding into civil war.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said: “The Myanmar junta’s courtroom circus of secret proceedings on bogus charges is all about steadily piling up more convictions against Aung San Suu Kyi so that she will remain in prison indefinitely.

“Senior general Min Aung Hlaing and the junta leaders obviously still view her as a paramount political threat who needs to be permanently neutralised.

“Once again, Aung San Suu Kyi has become a symbol of what is happening to her country and returned to the role of political hostage of military hell-bent on controlling power by using intimidation and violence.

“Fortunately for her and the future of Myanmar, the Myanmar people’s movement has grown well beyond just the leadership of one woman, and one political party.”

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