Myanmar’s Suu Kyi sentenced to 4 more years in prison

BANGKOK (AP) – A Myanmar court on Monday sentenced ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi to four more years in prison after convicting her of illegally importing and detaining walkie-talkies and violating restrictions on coronaviruses, a legal official said.

Suu Kyi was convicted last month on two more charges and sentenced to four years in prison, which was later cut in half by the army-installed head of government.

The cases are part of a dozen lawsuits against the 76-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate since the military seized power last February, toppling her elected government and arresting key members of her. party, the National League for Democracy.

If she is found guilty on all counts, she could be sentenced to more than 100 years in prison.

Suu Kyi’s supporters and independent analysts say the charges against her are designed to legitimize the military’s seizure of power and prevent it from returning to politics.

The United Nations has again called for the release of Suu Kyi and all those arbitrarily detained since the coup d’état of last February.

“All political prisoners must be released, and it is clear that this is not a step in the right direction,” UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric told reporters at UN headquarters in New York .

Monday’s verdict before the capital Naypyitaw court was handed down by a judicial official who wished to remain anonymous for fear of being punished by the authorities, who restricted the dissemination of information on the trials of Suu Kyi.

He said she was sentenced to two years in prison under the Import-Export Act for importing the walkie-talkies and one year under the Telecommunications Act for owning them. Sentences must be served simultaneously. She was also sentenced to two years in prison under the Natural Disaster Management Act for allegedly breaking coronavirus rules during an election campaign.

Suu Kyi was convicted last month of two more counts – incitement and violation of COVID-19 restrictions – and sentenced to four years in prison. Hours after the sentence was handed down, the head of government installed by the army, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, reduced it to half.

Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide victory in the 2020 general election, but the military claimed there was widespread voter fraud, a claim independent observers doubt.

Since her first guilty verdict, Suu Kyi has attended court hearings in prison attire – a white top and brown maxi skirt provided by authorities. She is being held by the military at an unknown location, where state television announced last month that she would be serving her sentence.

Hearings are closed to media and spectators and prosecutors are silent. His lawyers, who had been a source of information on the proceedings, received gag orders in October.

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

That would not allow a special envoy from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Myanmar is a member, to meet with her. The refusal received a rare reprimand from his colleagues, who banned Min Aung Hlaing from attending his annual summit.

Even Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who took over the regional group’s presidency for this year and advocates engagement with the ruling generals, failed to meet with her last week when he became the first leader of the group. government to visit Myanmar since the military takeover.

The army’s seizure of power was quickly met with non-violent nationwide protests, which security forces suppressed with lethal force, killing more than 1,400 civilians, according to a detailed list compiled by the ‘Association for assistance to political prisoners.

Peaceful protests continued, but amid the harsh crackdown, armed resistance also grew, to the point that UN experts warned the country could slide into civil war.

“The Burmese junta’s circus of secret hearings on false charges is to regularly rack up new convictions against Aung San Suu Kyi so that she remains in prison indefinitely. Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and the junta leaders obviously still see her as a paramount political threat that must be permanently neutralized, ”said Phil Robertson, deputy director for Asia at Human Rights Watch.

“Once again, Aung San Suu Kyi has become a symbol of what is happening in her country and has returned to the political hostage role of military personnel determined to control power by using intimidation and violence,” said Robertson in a statement. “Fortunately for her and for the future of Myanmar, the Myanmar people’s movement has grown far beyond the leadership of a woman and a political party.”

Suu Kyi was accused shortly after the army took power of inappropriately importing walkie-talkies, which served as the initial justification for her continued detention. A second charge of illegal possession of radios was filed the following month.

The radios were seized at the entrance gate of his residence and at the barracks of his bodyguards during a search on February 1, the day of his arrest.

Suu Kyi’s attorneys argued that the radios were not in her personal possession and that they were legitimately used to ensure her safety, but the court refused to dismiss the charges.

She was charged with two counts of violating coronavirus restrictions during the campaign for the 2020 election. She was convicted of the first count last month.

She is also being tried by the same court on five counts of corruption. The maximum penalty for each count is 15 years in prison and a fine. A sixth corruption charge brought against her and ousted President Win Myint in connection with the granting of a helicopter rental and purchase permit has yet to be tried.

In separate proceedings, she is accused of breaking the Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years.

Additional charges were also added by Myanmar’s Election Commission against Suu Kyi and 15 other politicians in November for alleged fraud in the 2020 elections. Charges by the military-appointed Union Election Commission could lead to disbandment party of Suu Kyi and the inability to participate in a new election that the military has promised to take place within two years of its takeover.

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