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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

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


A court in Myanmar has sentenced ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi to four more years in prison, in the latest of a series of trials.

She was convicted for the illegal possession and import of walkie-talkies and breaking Covid-19 rules.

Ms Suu Kyi was first convicted in December, and given a reduced jail sentence of two years.

She has been detained since the February military coup and is facing a slew of charges, all of which she denies.

Her trials have been widely criticised as being unfair.

The charges in the latest case stem from a search of her home by soldiers led by army chief General Min Aung Hlaing on the day of the coup. The devices they claim to have discovered are assumed to have been used by her security guards, resulting in a conviction widely regarded as nothing more than a ploy to justify her detention.

The trial in Nay Pyi Taw, the capital, was closed to the media on Monday, and Ms Suu Kyi’s lawyers have been barred from communicating with the media or the public.

Last month, the Nobel laureate was found guilty of incitement of dissent and violating Covid-19 rules in what UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called a “sham trial.”

Human Rights Watch described the legal proceedings as a “courtroom circus of secret proceedings on bogus charges… so that (Aung San Suu Kyi) will remain in prison indefinitely” in response to Monday’s sentencing.

The group’s deputy Asia director, Phil Robertson, also accused the military of obtaining convictions “in a kangaroo court on the flimsiest, politically motivated charges,” and of “running roughshod over the human rights of everyone, from Suu Kyi… to Civil Disobedience Movements activists on the street.”

The military seized power in Myanmar (also known as Burma) last February, months after Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide in the November 2020 general elections.

The military claimed that voter fraud played a role in the victory, but independent election observers said the elections were largely free and fair.

The coup sparked widespread protests, and Myanmar’s military has repressed pro-democracy protesters, activists, and journalists.

According to the monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, Ms Suu Kyi is one of more than 10,600 people arrested by the junta since February, with at least 1,303 others killed in the demonstrations.

The latest sentence brings her total prison term to six years, but if she is convicted of all the charges she faces, she could be imprisoned for the rest of her life.

The military took power after alleging fraud in elections that observers said were largely free

The 76-year-old has not been seen in public since her house arrest and is still facing several more serious charges, including corruption, election fraud, and violating the Official Secrets Act.

According to the BBC’s Jonathan Head, whether she spends any time in jail depends on what the military wants to do with its most famous prisoner.

The ruling junta continues to face widespread opposition; parts of the country are now engulfed in armed conflict, and the economy is on the verge of collapsing.

Neighboring countries are attempting to mediate a peaceful resolution to the conflict. They have made little progress so far, but if they do, our correspondent believes such talks will eventually have to include Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains very popular.

An icon who fell from grace

Between 1989 and 2010, Aung San Suu Kyi was imprisoned by the military for nearly 15 years and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to bring democracy to Myanmar.

Her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), won a landslide victory in 2015, but she was barred from becoming president by rules that prohibit those with foreign national children from holding the office. She was widely regarded as the country’s de facto ruler.

Her international reputation, however, was severely harmed by the way she handled the Rohingya crisis, which began in 2017.

In 2019 Ms Suu Kyi appeared at the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) to defend her country against accusations of genocide.


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