A legal spokesman said that a particular court in Myanmar's capital sentenced ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi to four years in prison on Monday. The court found her guilty of inciting and violating coronavirus prohibitions.
The sentencing was the first in a series of cases brought against the 76-year-old Nobel laureate since the army seized power on February 1, stopping her National League for Democracy party from launching a second five-year term.
The incitement accusation stemmed from words made on her party's Facebook page after the military had already detained her and other party leaders. The coronavirus charge stemmed from a campaign appearance ahead of November's landslide victory for her party.
The army, whose affiliated party suffered significant losses in the election, claimed widespread voter fraud, but impartial election observers found no significant abnormalities.
The court's decision was communicated by a legal official who requested anonymity out of fear of repercussions from the authorities. Suu Kyi's trails are closed to the press and the public. Her lawyers, who had been the sole source of information on the proceedings, were given gag orders prohibiting them from disclosing information in October.
In 2017, Dublin City Council decisively decided to deprive Suu Kyi of her Freedom of Dublin for failing to defend the rights of her country's Rohingya minority, over 600,000 of whom were forced to migrate over the border to Bangladesh due to a military crackdown. It occurred following Bob Geldof's refusal to accept his Freedom of Dublin award in protest of Suu Kyi.
Suu Kyi's cases are widely viewed as concocted to tarnish her and prevent her from standing in the next election. The constitution prohibits anyone sentenced to prison for a crime from holding high office or becoming a legislator.
Ten months after the army took over, opposition to military rule remains strong, and the verdict may exacerbate tensions even further.
Protest marches against the military administration and for the release of Suu Kyi and other arrested members of her government took place on Sunday. According to unconfirmed accounts, an army truck purposely rammed into a march of approximately 30 young people in Yangon, the country's largest city. At least three protestors may have been murdered.
Suu Kyi's first two prosecutions, on incitement — for allegedly circulating false or inflammatory material that could disrupt public order — and violating the Natural Disaster Management Law — for allegedly violating coronavirus limitations — were scheduled to conclude last Tuesday. However, the court delayed its decision without explaining. Simultaneously, it agreed to allow testimony this week from an additional defense witness who had previously been unable to attend court on a separate coronavirus charge due to ill health.
Suu Kyi's attorneys fought tooth and nail to have the inciting allegation dropped. The prosecution relied on Suu Kyi's party's Facebook page statements. Suu Kyi and a co-defendant, former President Win Myint, contended that they could not be held accountable for the words — which criticized the takeover and advised in broad terms that it be resisted — because they were already detained.
Myo Aung, the former mayor of Naypyitaw, was also charged with the offense, which carries a maximum of two years in prison and a fine. Win Myint received a four-year term, while Myo Aung received two-year imprisonment.
The February coup d'état was met with widespread nonviolent demonstrations, which security forces put down with lethal force. According to a precise tally provided by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, they have killed approximately 1,300 civilians.
Due to the government's severe prohibitions on nonviolent protest, armed resistance has developed in cities and rural areas, to the point where United Nations experts have warned the country is on the verge of civil war.
Suu Kyi was arrested on the day of the military's takeover, and she has not been seen in public since, even though she has appeared in court in several of her trials.
Suu Kyi's second count of breaking coronavirus limitations is set for adjudication on December 14. Each offense carries a potential sentence of three years in jail and a fine.
Other cases currently pending against Suu Kyi include the alleged unregistered import and use of walkie-talkies by her security guards; a violation of the Official Secrets Act, in which jailed Australian economist Sean Turnell is a co-defendant; and four separate corruption charges alleging the acceptance of a bribe and the abuse of office to obtain favorable terms on property transactions. Each corruption accusation carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years and a fine.
A fifth corruption accusation has not yet been brought against Suu Kyi, and state media reported last week that a sixth charge had been lodged against her.
The latest indictment leveled against her and Win Myint alleges they colluded in providing permits to hire and purchase helicopters.
In mid-November, the military-appointed election commission declared its intention to prosecute Suu Kyi and 15 other key political figures for alleged election fraud, perhaps leading to the dissolution of her party.
The military has asserted that it gained power due to extensive electoral fraud, an assertion that impartial election observers dispute.