A military court in Naipyidó, the Burmese capital, sentenced Aung San Suu Kyi to four years in prison on Monday for illegally possessing various telecommunications devices and for violating measures against the pandemic.
The leader de facto of the Government that the military deposed in February 2021 and the Nobel Peace Prize winner, who has already been serving a two-year sentence since the beginning of December for inciting violence and violating anticovid laws, has been found guilty of violating the Law of Export and Import and telecommunications law have several unlicensed walkie-talkies and a signal inhibitor.
The police found these portable devices in the search of her home, when they detained her after the coup by the Tatmadaw, the Burmese Army. His lawyers have argued that the computers were not part of his personal belongings and that they were used legitimately to ensure his safety. According to sources close to the case, the two sentences will be served simultaneously, so they would end up being reduced to two years.
In another trial, also held this Monday, La Dama – as she is also known – has been sentenced to another two years in prison for skipping measures against the pandemic during the electoral campaign.
Several human rights associations consider that the verdicts against Suu Kyi – accused in total of eleven crimes that could mean more than a century behind bars – are nothing more than an attempt to remove her from politics.
The two sentences are in addition to the convictions of December 6 for inciting protests and for violating the protocols to stop the spread of covid-19. At first, the judge ruled that he should serve four years in prison, but hours later state television announced that they were reduced to two for a partial pardon granted by the head of the coup military junta, Min Aung Hlaing.
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Suu Kyi, 76, had been under house arrest since the riot. However, she has attended the latest court hearings dressed in a white T-shirt and a brown skirt, the uniform of the country’s inmates. It is unknown where he has been serving a sentence since December. In the 11 months that have elapsed since his arrest, the number of crimes he is accused of has only increased, reaching 11. Among them is corruption – which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years – and that of breaching the law of official secrets of the colonial era, punishable by up to 14 years in prison. If found guilty of all, she could face up to 104 years in prison.
Behind closed doors
All trials are being held behind closed doors and without witnesses. Burmese authorities decreed summary secrecy in October, which is why their lawyers are prohibited from granting interviews. Despite international pressure, the military junta has not allowed anyone to meet with it in all this time.
Several human rights organizations have criticized the rulings of this Monday. Amnesty International has expressed on its Twitter account that the new convictions are “the latest action in a trial that is a complete sham”, while Phil Robertson, deputy director for Asia at Human Rights Watch, has issued a statement in which he maintains that “The Myanmar junta circus, in which the trials of fabricated charges are handled in secret, aims to rack up more convictions against Aung San Suu Kyi so that she can remain in prison indefinitely. It is clear that General Min Aung Hlaing and the other military leaders continue to see it as a political threat that must be neutralized. “
“Once again, Aung San Suu Kyi has become a symbol of what is happening to her country and is once again playing the role of political hostage to the military, determined to stay in power through intimidation and violence.” Robertson adds. The 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner already spent almost 15 years in prison between 1989 and 2010, for leading the movement against the military dictatorship that ruled the former Burma for half a century (1962-2011).
Today’s sentencing of Aung San Suu Kyi on multiple charges represents the latest act in the farcical trial against the civilian leader. She must be released immediately along with thousands in #Myanmar unjustly detained for peacefully exercising their rights since the Feb 1 coup.
— Amnesty International (@amnesty) January 10, 2022
The Tatmadaw justifies the coup d’état last February due to the alleged electoral fraud during the November 2020 elections, in which the National League for Democracy, Suu Kyi’s party, was swept away, as it had done in the general elections of 2015. After the military took power, thousands of people took to the streets of the country in protest. Although the peaceful demonstrations have continued, amid harsh repression by the security forces, armed resistance has also increased, to the point where international analysts warn that a civil war could break out. According to data compiled by the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners, more than 1,400 people have lost their lives at the hands of the Army.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.