A military junta court sentenced deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi to four years in prison Monday over incitement and breaches of COVID-19 laws – a ruling rights groups said was aimed at ending the Nobel laureate’s political career.
Ten months after they were overthrown and arrested by the army, the 76-year-old Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint received two years for incitement against the military and two years for violating coronavirus restrictions, according to sources familiar with the closed-door court proceedings.
The details of verdicts, which also included a two-year sentence for incitement for Naypyidaw Mayor Myo Aung, remained undisclosed. 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.
“It’s no surprise the Myanmar military junta is hauling Aung San Suu Kyi and her co-defendants off to prison on these bogus charges,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“This trial was one hundred percent political from day one, and was done with clear intent to lock her away for good so she can never again contest military rule,” he said in a statement from Bangkok.
The incitement charges under Section 505 (b) of the Penal Code, stem from speeches by Aung San Suu Kyi, Min Myint, and Myo Aung denouncing the Feb. 1 military takeover.
The violations of COVID-19 containment rules under Section 25 of the Disaster Management Law against Aung San Suu Kyi and Win Myint COVID-19 containment rules stem from a rally with supporters last year.
“The harsh sentences handed down to Aung San Suu Kyi on these bogus charges are the latest example of the military’s determination to eliminate all opposition and suffocate freedoms in Myanmar,” said Ming Yu Hah, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for campaigns.
The sentences on Monday cover just two of as many as 11 different charges against Aung San Suu Kyi, including corruption and incitement, that could carry a maximum sentence of more than 100 years in prison.
“This is just the beginning of the rights abusing landslide of even more severe criminal charges that will most likely ensure that Suu Kyi is never allowed to be a free woman again,” said Robertson.
Myanmar’s junta has also detained nearly four dozen high-ranking officials from the ousted 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 after its landslide November 2020 election victory.
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 1,303 people and arresting nearly 7,800 over the last nine months, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
“This ridiculous ruling is a travesty of justice,” said Malaysian lawmaker Charles Santiago, a member of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, who called the arrests ”nothing more than an excuse by the junta to justify their illegal power grab.”
“Despite this most recent attempt to demonstrate their power, the Myanmar people continue to risk their lives every day to show that they completely reject this military,” he said in a statement.
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Zaw Zaw Aung. Written in English by Paul Eckert.