According to a legal official, a special court in Myanmar’s capital condemned the country’s deposed leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, to four years in prison after finding her guilty of inciting and breaking coronavirus prohibitions.
The 76-year-old Nobel winner was sentenced for the first time in a series of prosecutions since the army took power on Feb. 1, stopping her National League for Democracy party from starting a second five-year term in office. Another lawsuit against her is set to be decided next week.
She may face a sentence of more than 100 years in jail if she is found guilty in all of the counts she is facing. According to the legal authority, the court on Monday did not specify whether Suu Kyi will be sentenced to prison or placed under home arrest for the two convictions. She has been under house arrest since 1989, as part of her lengthy quest for democracy.
The incitement accusation stemmed from words she made on her party’s Facebook page after she and other party officials had already been jailed by the military, while the coronavirus charge was from a campaign appearance before November’s elections, which her party won convincingly.
The army claimed huge voting fraud when its associated party lost several seats in the election, but impartial election monitors found no serious abnormalities.
The court’s decision in Naypyitaw was relayed by a legal professional who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation from the government. The trials of Aung San Suu Kyi remain closed to the public and the media, and her attorneys, who had been the only source of information on the proceedings, were slapped with gag orders in October prohibiting them from disclosing any information.
Officials from the government could not be reached for comment on the verdict right away. Special courts, which were established during British colonial administration to hear special issues, are a relic of British colonial control. The majority of the time, they are employed in political matters.
According to the legal authority, defense attorneys for Suu Kyi and two colleagues who were also convicted Monday are anticipated to submit appeals in the coming days.
Suu Kyi’s cases are largely viewed as fabricated in order to discredit her and prevent her from participating in the next election. Anyone sentenced to jail after being convicted of a felony is barred from holding high office or becoming a legislator under the constitution.
Ten months after the army took power, opposition to military rule is still strong, and the verdict may exacerbate tensions even further.
Protest marches against the military administration and for the release of Suu Kyi and other arrested members of her government took place on Sunday. According to unverified accounts, an army truck purposely raced into a march of approximately 30 young people in Yangon, the country’s largest city, killing at least three protestors.
Suu Kyi’s first two cases, on incitement (for allegedly circulating false or inflammatory material that might disrupt public order) and breaking the Natural Disaster Management Law (for allegedly violating coronavirus limitations), were set to be handed down last Tuesday. The court, on the other hand, postponed its decision without explanation. At the same time, it decided to allow an additional defense witness who had previously been unable to attend court due to illness to testify this week on a second coronavirus case.
Suu Kyi’s attorneys fought hard to get the inciting allegation dropped. The prosecution’s evidence comprised on statements made on Suu Kyi’s party’s Facebook page. Because Suu Kyi and a co-defendant, former President Win Myint, were already in jail, defense counsel contended that they could not be held liable for the comments, which denounced the coup and advised in broad terms that it be opposed.
Myo Aung, the former mayor of Naypyitaw, was also charged with inciting, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in jail and a fine. He was given a two-year sentence. Win Myint, on the other hand, was given a total of four years in prison, two for inciting and two for violating coronavirus limitations.
The takeover of power in February was met by national nonviolent protests, which security forces put down with lethal force. According to a precise tally provided by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, they have killed almost 1,300 people.
Armed opposition has surged in the cities and countryside while nonviolent protests have been severely restricted, prompting UN experts to warn that the country is on the verge of civil war.
Suu Kyi was taken into jail by the military on the day of the coup, and she has not been seen in public since, despite appearing in court in several of her trials.
Suu Kyi’s second count of breaking coronavirus limits is set to be heard on December 14. Each offense carries a potential punishment of three years in jail and a fine.
Other cases currently being tried against Suu Kyi include the alleged unregistered import and use of walkie-talkies by her security guards; violation of the Official Secrets Act, in which jailed Australian economist Sean Turnell is a co-defendant; and four separate corruption charges involving the alleged acceptance of a bribe and abuse of office in order to obtain favorable terms on property transactions. The maximum penalty for each of the corruption counts is 15 years in jail and a fine.
Suu Kyi’s trial on a fifth corruption accusation has yet to begin, and state media reported last week that a sixth charge had been brought against her.
The most recent allegation accuses her and Win Myint of corruption in the issuance of helicopter rental and purchase licences.
The military-appointed election commission said in mid-November that it planned to prosecute Suu Kyi and 15 other key political figures for alleged election fraud, which might lead to the dissolution of her party.
The military claims it seized power as a result of extensive election fraud, but impartial election monitors say there is no evidence to back up this assertion.