Myanmar’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi was jailed for four years on Monday on charges of incitement and breaching coronavirus restrictions, a source familiar with the proceedings said, in a case critics dismissed as a farce.
President Win Myint was also sentenced to four years in prison, the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, as the court delivered its first verdicts against civilian leaders detained in a Feb. 1 military coup, reports Reuters.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the coup against Suu Kyi’s democratically elected government sparked widespread protests and raised international concern about the halt to tentative political reforms following decades of military rule.
Nobel peace prize winner Suu Kyi, 76, has been detained since the coup along with most senior leaders of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party. Others are abroad or in hiding and no party spokesperson was available for comment.
Rights group Amnesty International said the charges against Suu Kyi were bogus and described the jail sentence as the latest example of the military’s determination to eliminate all opposition and suffocate freedoms.
“The court’s farcical and corrupt decision is part of a devastating pattern of arbitrary punishment that has seen more than 1,300 people killed and thousands arrested since the military coup,” the group’s deputy regional director for Campaigns, Ming Yu Hah, said in a statement.
The military has not given details of where Suu Kyi has been detained and it was not immediately clear if the sentencing would mean any immediate change in her circumstances.
The trial in the capital, Naypyitaw, has been closed to the media and the junta’s public information outlets have not mentioned the proceedings. Suu Kyi’s lawyers have been barred from communicating with the media and public.
Suu Kyi faces a dozen cases that include multiple corruption charges plus violations of a state secrets act, a telecoms law and COVID-19 regulations, which carry combined maximum sentences of more than a century in prison.
Suu Kyi and co-defendant Win Myint received jail terms of two years for incitement and the same term for breaches of coronavirus protocols. They had denied the charges.
‘ILLEGAL POWER GRAB’
Suu Kyi’s supporters say the cases are baseless and designed to end her political career and tie her up in legal proceedings while the military consolidates power.
Her jailing had been widely expected.
“I don’t expect anything out of this broken justice system,” said Maw Htun Aung, a deputy minister in an opposition parallel government, told Reuters.
The junta says Suu Kyi is being given due process by an independent court led by a judge appointed by her own administration.
Suu Kyi, the daughter of the hero of Myanmar’s independence from British colonial rule, spent years under house arrest for her opposition to military rule but was freed in 2010 and led her NLD to landslide victory in a 2015 election.
Her party won again in November last year but the military said the vote was rigged and seized power weeks later. The election commission at the time dismissed the military’s complaints of vote fraud.
The international community has condemned the violence in Myanmar since the coup, and Western states have demanded Suu Kyi’s release.
Matthew Smith, chief executive of the Fortify Rights group, said the sentencing was “part of a widespread and systematic attack on the civilian population” and called for the immediate release of Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.
The group ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights said no-one was fooled by the outcome of the trial.
“Since the day of the coup, it’s been clear that the charges against Aung San Suu Kyi and the dozens of other detained MPs, have been nothing more than an excuse by the junta to justify their illegal power grab,” it said in a statement.