Delivery of a verdict in the trial by a military court of deposed Myanmar national leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been postponed to Dec. 6, sources close to court proceedings told RFA Tuesday.
No reason was given for the delay in announcing a verdict, which was expected Tuesday, the sources said.
All five of the former State Counselor’s lawyers have been barred since October by Myanmar’s military rulers from releasing information or speaking publicly about the two cases being tried. The trials are closed to media.
Charged under Section 505 (b) of the Penal Code, Aung San Suu Kyi, former Myanmar president Min Myint, and Naypyidaw mayor Myo Aung are accused in the first case of defaming the country’s military and undermining state order.
In the second case, filed under Section 25 of the Disaster Management Law, Aung San Suu Kyi and Win Myint are charged with violating COVID-19 containment rules by greeting supporters last year at a political rally.
Section 505 (b) of the Penal Code provides a maximum sentence on conviction of two years’ imprisonment, while Section 25 of the Disaster Management Law provides a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
Aung San Suu Kyi. 76, faces up to 11 different charges, including corruption and incitement, and if found guilty in all cases could face a maximum sentence of more than 100 years in prison.
Myanmar’s junta has also detained nearly four dozen high-ranking officials from the deposed National League for Democracy (NLD) on charges of corruption since seizing power ten months ago in what legal analysts have called a bid to tarnish the party’s image at a time of heightened political rivalry.
Zaw Min Tun, a spokesman for the ruling State Administration Council, as the junta calls itself, told RFA that any announcement of a verdict in the months-long trial would be a matter for the court to decide.
“It is true that no decision has been made today,” the junta’s deputy information minister said. “But we [the military council] have no right to interfere in this, as this is the role of the judiciary. That is all I want to say.”
Khin Maung Myint, a senior lawyer living in Myanmar’s former capital Yangon, said the judge hearing the case may have postponed today’s court session because he needs more time to review details of the trial before writing a verdict.
“Even when the reading of a verdict is scheduled, judges have sometimes not been able to write a complete verdict in a case. Such postponements are not unusual,” Khin Maung Myint said.
Extra care in writing a verdict may also be required because Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial is being closely watched both in Myanmar and around the world, he added.
However, the verdict’s delay may also be aimed at allowing a longer sentence to be imposed, said Yangon-based political analyst Than Soe Naing.
“The junta may expect that a long term in prison will end with the prisoner’s death, and that’s why this verdict was postponed,” he said, adding, “If her case had ended with a sentence of only three years, this would not meet the junta’s expectations.”
Myanmar’s military rulers may have also wanted to watch public reaction to the news of a delay, said Aung Kyi Nyunt, a central executive committee member of the NLD.
“In other words, the military council might be thinking, ‘What will people say if this is postponed?’ We don’t know what they may be watching for, though,” he said.
Myanmar’s military overthrew the country’s democratically elected government on Feb. 1, claiming voter fraud had led to a landslide victory for Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party in the country’s November 2020 election.
The junta has yet to provide evidence of its claims and has violently suppressed nationwide protests calling for a return to civilian rule, killing 1,299 people and arresting 7,640 over the last nine months, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP-Burma).
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Zaw Zaw Aung. Written in English by Richard Finney.