Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been sentenced to four years in jail as a court delivered the first verdicts in a number of cases that could see her imprisoned for decades.
Ever since the military seized power in a coup on February 1, the 76-year-old has been in detention.
Suu Kyi has been charged with a range of offenses including corruption, possessing unregistered walkie-talkies, and violating the official secrets act.
Supporters of Suu Kyi claimed that the charges are an attempt to stop her from regaining power.
According to the combined estimates the charges carry maximum jail sentences of over 100 years.
The trials have been held behind closed doors and Suu Kyi has not been in public since her detention as and the trials have also been carried out behind closed doors.
On Monday she received the four-year term under charges of incitement and breaking COVID-19 restrictions.
Myanmar’s ousted president Win Myint was also given the same jail sentence, while Myo Aung, the former mayor of Naypyidaw, was given a two-year sentence.
Journalists are barred from entering the court and Suu Kyi’s lawyers are also prohibited from speaking to the media.
Richard Horsey, an expert at International Crisis Group said, “This is the first of many charges against Aung San Suu Kyi to be heard.” He added, “This is not a legal process, it is retribution against Aung San Suu Kyi – basically, Min Aung Hlaing flexing his muscles.”
Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for campaigns, Ming Yu Hah, stated, “The harsh sentences handed down to Aung San Suu Kyi on these bogus charges are the latest example of the military’s determination to eliminate all opposition and suffocate freedoms in Myanmar.”
He added, “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 in February.”
Hah continued, “There are many detainees without the profile of Aung San Suu Kyi who currently face the terrifying prospect of years behind bars simply for peacefully exercising their human rights. They must not be forgotten and left to their fate. As violence escalates, displacing tens of thousands of people and setting up a humanitarian crisis in the middle of an ongoing pandemic, the situation in Myanmar today is alarming in the extreme. Without a decisive, unified, and swift international response this can and will get worse.”
The military spokesperson has previously said Suu Kyi would be afforded due process by an independent judiciary.
Suu Kyi’s popular National League for Democracy (NLD) party won a resounding victory in a general election in November 2020.
The military later claimed that the victory was a result of election fraud and said that it needed to take over the running of the country, overthrowing the democratically elected government.
According to data from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners Burma (AAPPB), over 10,000 people have been arrested since the coup and over 1,300 have lost their lives. Many of these were shot by security forces while taking part in pro-democracy protests.
On Sunday, as per reports, five people died and at least 15 people were arrested after junta forces rammed a car into anti-coup protestors in Yangon.
The UN, UK, and US along with others have repeatedly condemned the ongoing violence and called for the immediate release of political prisoners.