Myanmar's ousted leader Suu Kyi gets 4-year jail term
A special court in Myanmar's capital on Monday sentenced the country's ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, to four years of imprisonment. The verdict came after the court reportedly found Suu Kyi guilty of incitement against the military and breaching COVID-19 restrictions, a legal official told the Associated Press. However, it remains unclear when or if Suu Kyi will go to prison.
Why does this story matter?
The 76-year-old Nobel Laureate has been under detention since the country's military generals staged a coup on February 1. The coup prevented Suu Kyi's party from starting a second five-year term in office. She has since faced multiple cases, including violation of the official secrets act, corruption, and electoral fraud. If found guilty on all charges, she might face imprisonment for decades.
What do we know about the two cases?
The incitement case reportedly involved statements posted on the Facebook page of Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy (NLD). The statements were posted after Suu Kyi and NLD leaders were detained. The COVID-19 restriction charge was connected to a violation of the Natural Disaster Management Law during a campaign for the November 2020 elections, which the NLD had won.
What did the defense lawyers argue?
The lawyers representing Suu Kyi reportedly argued for the dismissal of incitement charges against her. The lawyers argued that Suu Kyi and a co-defendant, former President Win Myint, could not be held responsible for the statements criticizing the military takeover, as they were already under detention. The incitement charge carries a maximum penalty of two-year imprisonment and a fine.
Media blackout on Suu Kyi's trial
Notably, media and spectators have been barred from attending the trials of Suu Kyi in the special court. In October, her lawyers had also been served with gag orders, banning them from speaking to the press.
Suu Kyi facing 11 cases
Suu Kyi has been facing a total of 11 cases, including alleged unregistered import and use of walkie-talkies by her security and the violation of the Official Secrets Act. She is also facing four separate corruption charges involving alleged bribery and abuse of office to obtain favorable terms on property transactions. Notably, each corruption charge carries a penalty of 15-years imprisonment.
2 more corruption charges against Suu Kyi
While the trials are ongoing in most cases, the trial on a fifth corruption charge has not yet started. Meanwhile, a sixth charge has also been filed against Suu Kyi for corruption in granting permits to rent and buy a helicopter.
Rights group condemns sentencing
Rights group Amnesty International condemned Suu Kyi's sentencing, calling the charges "bogus." The sentencing was "the latest example of the military's determination to eliminate all opposition and suffocate freedoms in Myanmar," Amnesty's deputy regional director for Campaigns Ming Yu Hah said. The sentences "were about retribution and a show of power by the military," International Crisis Group's Myanmar senior advisor Richard Horsey told AFP.
Why is Suu Kyi facing multiple cases?
The cases against Suu Kyi are considered to be deliberate attempts by the military regime to discredit the Nobel Laureate. If convicted, she will be barred from running in future elections as the constitution restricts convicted felons from holding high office or becoming a lawmaker.
Protests against military continue in Myanmar
Even after ten months since the coup, opposition against the military takeover has continued in the country. There were reportedly protest marches on Sunday against the military rule, demanding the release of Suu Kyi and other detained members of her government. Unconfirmed reports said an army truck deliberately rammed into the protesters in Yangon, killing at least three.