Myanmar court convicts Suu Kyi on new corruption charges

BANGKOK (AP) — A military-run court in Myanmar on Monday convicted the country’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi on other corruption charges, adding six years to her 11-year prison sentence, said a legal officer.

The trial was held behind closed doors, with no access for the media or the public, and his lawyers were prohibited by a gag order from revealing information about the proceedings.

In the four corruption cases tried on Monday, Suu Kyi allegedly abused her position to rent public land at below-market prices and built a residence with donations intended for charitable purposes. She received three-year sentences for each of the four counts, but the sentences for three of them will be served simultaneously, giving her a total of six additional years in prison.

She has denied all charges and her lawyers are expected to appeal.

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She had previously been sentenced to 11 years in prison for sedition, corruption and other charges in previous trials after the military overthrew her elected government and detained her in February 2021.

Analysts say the numerous charges against her and her allies are an attempt to legitimize the military’s takeover while eliminating her from politics before the military holds the elections it has promised for next year.

Suu Kyi and her co-defendants have denied all allegations and their lawyers are expected to appeal in the coming days, said the legal chief, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to release information and feared to be punished by the authorities. .

Other senior officials of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party and her government have also been arrested and jailed, and authorities have hinted they may dissolve the party before the next election. The Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners, a civil society organization, says more than 12,000 people are in detention after being arrested by security forces.

“The more the terrorist military council deliberately imprisons the people’s leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi with various arbitrary charges, the stronger the people’s determination to destroy the military dictator becomes,” said Tun Myint, a member of the party’s underground central working committee. by Suu Kyi. .

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The military seized power and detained Suu Kyi on February 1, 2021, the day her party would have started a second five-year term after winning a landslide victory in the November 2020 general election. The military said it had acted because there had been massive voter fraud, but independent election observers found no major irregularities.

The army takeover sparked peaceful street protests across the country that security forces put down with lethal force, sparking armed resistance that some UN experts are now calling a civil war. The military government has been accused of human rights abuses, including arbitrary arrests and killings, torture and military sweeps, including airstrikes on civilians and burning down entire villages.

The Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners says it has verified that 2,191 pro-democracy activists and other civilians have been killed in military crackdowns, though the true total is likely much higher.

Suu Kyi, 77, has been the face of opposition to military rule in Myanmar for more than three decades. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 while under house arrest.

His five years as head of the civilian government were marked by repression and military domination, even though it was Myanmar’s most democratic period since the 1962 coup.

Suu Kyi has been charged with a total of 11 counts under the anti-corruption law, with each count carrying a sentence of up to 15 years in prison and a fine.

In Monday’s verdicts, the legal chief said Suu Kyi was sentenced to three years in prison for building a residence for herself in Naypyitaw, allegedly with money donated to a charitable foundation named after her. mother over whom she presided.

She was sentenced to three years in prison for allegedly taking advantage of her position to rent property in Yangon, the country’s largest city, for the same foundation, the official said.

The other two cases on Monday related to plots of land in Naypyitaw for which she allegedly abused her power to lease at below-market prices to the foundation. She received a three-year sentence for each of these cases.

The three Naypyitaw offense matters must be served simultaneously.

The former mayor of Naypyitaw, Myo Aung, was a co-accused in the two cases concerning the granting of permits for the land. Ye Min Oo, the former vice-mayor, is a co-defendant in one case and Min Thu, a former member of the Naypyitaw development committee, in the other. Each received three-year sentences.

The government’s Anti-Corruption Commission, which filed the case, had alleged that the rental fee agreed by the Naypyitaw Development Committee was lower than the rate set by the Ministry of Planning and Finance, so the rental agreement deprived the state of the revenues it should have received.

The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell Fontelles, has called for the immediate release of Suu Kyi.

“I condemn the unjust sentencing of Aung San Suu Kyi to an additional six years in detention and call on the regime in #Myanmar to immediately and unconditionally release her and all political prisoners and respect the will of the people” , he tweeted.


By GRANT PECK Associated Press

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