BANGKOK — A court in Myanmar’s military government on Friday convicted the country’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi of corruption and sentenced her to seven years in prison in the latest in a series of criminal cases against her, according to a source with direct knowledge of the proceedings. confirmed to NBC News.
The court action leaves her with a total of 33 years to serve in prison after a series of what her supporters say are politically-tinged prosecutions since the army toppled her elected government in February 2021.
The case that ended on Friday involved five offenses under the anti-corruption law and followed previous convictions for seven other corruption charges, each punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine.
Suu Kyi, 77, has also been convicted of several other crimes, including the illegal importation and possession of walkie-talkies, violation of coronavirus restrictions, violation of the country’s official secrets law, sedition and electoral fraud.
Her previous convictions had landed her a total of 26 years in prison.
Suu Kyi’s supporters and independent analysts say the numerous charges against her and her allies are an attempt to legitimize the military’s takeover while removing her from politics before the elections she has promised in 2023.
In the five corruption charges decided on Friday, Suu Kyi is alleged to have abused her position and caused a loss of state funds by failing to follow financial rules by granting Win Myat Aye, a cabinet member of her previous government, permission to hire , buy and maintain a helicopter.
Suu Kyi was the de facto head of government and held the title of state councilor. Win Myint, who was president in her government, was a co-defendant in the same case.
Suu Kyi received sentences of three years for each of the four charges, to be served concurrently, and four years for the charge related to the purchase of the helicopter, for a total of seven years. Win Myint received the same sentences, the source said, which she declined to be named because Suu Kyi’s trials were held behind closed doors, with restricted information.
Win Myat Aye, at the center of the case, escaped arrest and is now Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management in the Government of National Unity, set up by opponents of the armed forces as a parallel administration of elected lawmakers who are banned from holding their seats when the army seized power last year. The military has declared the NUG to be a proscribed “terrorist organization”.
The defendants have denied all charges and Suu Kyi’s lawyers are expected to appeal in the coming days.
«From start to finish, the junta did everything it could to fabricate cases against him in full confidence that the country’s kangaroo courts would come back with whatever punitive judgment the military wanted,» said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights. Watch, in a statement. a statement sent by email. «Due process and a free and fair trial were never remotely possible in the circumstances of this political persecution against him.»
The end of the court cases against Suu Kyi, at least for now, raises the possibility that she will be allowed outside visits, which she has been denied since she was detained.
The military government has repeatedly denied all requests to meet with her, including from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which is seeking to help mediate an end to the crisis in Myanmar that some United Nations experts have characterized as a war. civilian due to armed opposition. to the military government.
The UN said in August that Chief General Min Aung Hlaing, the head of the government installed by the Myanmar military, had «expressed his readiness to arrange a meeting at the right time» between Suu Kyi and UN special envoy Noeleen. Heyzer.
A statement from the military government said: «Depending on the circumstances after the completion of the judicial process, we will consider how to proceed.»
Due to her age, the 33 years in prison Suu Kyi now faces “is the equivalent of a life sentence effective against her,” Robertson said.
“The absurd and totally unfair series of charges and sentences by the Myanmar junta against Aung San Suu Kyi amounts to a politically motivated punishment designed to keep her behind bars for the rest of her life,” he said. “The convictions are aimed at permanently sidelining her, as well as undermining and ultimately denying the landslide victory of her NLD party in the November 2020 election.”
Allowing access to Suu Kyi has been one of the main demands of many international critics of Myanmar’s military rulers, who have faced diplomatic and political sanctions for their human rights abuses and repression of democracy.
The military takeover in 2021 sparked widespread peaceful protests that security forces tried to crush with deadly force, soon erupting into armed resistance.
Myanmar’s security forces have killed at least 2,685 civilians and arrested 16,651, according to a detailed list compiled by the Political Prisoners Assistance Association, a non-governmental organization that tracks killings and arrests.