BANGKOK – A court in military-run Myanmar has convicted former leader Aung San Suu Kyi of corruption and sentenced her to five years in prison on Wednesday in the first of several corruption cases against her.
Suu Kyi, 76, who was drafted from the army last year, has denied allegations that she accepted gold and hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from a senior political colleague.
Her supporters and independent legal experts see the prosecution of Suu Kyi as an unjust attempt to discredit her and legitimize the military’s seizure of power, while preventing her from returning to an active role in politics.
The daughter of Aung San, the founding father of Myanmar, Suu Kyi became a public figure in 1988 during a failed uprising against a previous military government when she helped found the National League for Democracy. She spent 15 of the next 21 years under house arrest for fighting the nonviolent struggle for democracy that earned her the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. When the army authorized elections in 2015, her party won a landslide victory and she became de facto head of state. . Her party won a larger majority in the 2020 elections.
Suu Kyi is widely revered at home for her role in the pro-democracy movement in the country – and has long been seen abroad as an icon of this struggle, embodied by her years under house arrest.
But she has also been heavily criticized for showing respect for the military, while ignoring and sometimes even defending human rights abuses – most notably the 2017 crackdown on Rohingya Muslims, which human rights groups called genocide. Although she disputes allegations that army officers killed Rohingya civilians, set fire to houses and raped women, and she remains extremely popular at home, this position has tarnished her reputation abroad.
She has already been sentenced to six years in prison in other cases and faces 10 more corruption charges. The maximum penalty under the Anti-Corruption Act is 15 years in prison and a fine for each charge. Sentences in other cases can result in a total of more than 100 years in prison.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated his call on the Myanmar military on Tuesday to release all political prisoners, including Suu Kyi, and condemned the country’s military takeover on February 1, 2021, said UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq.
The UN chief also reiterated his call for an immediate end to violence and repression in Myanmar and for respect for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “which upholds the principles of equality before the law, the presumption of innocence, the right to a fair and public hearing by an independent and an impartial tribunal and all the guarantees necessary for the protection of a person. “
“These are fictitious accusations that are politically motivated to keep her in prison for so long and are also meant to keep her out of the political spotlight,” said Wei Hnin Pint Ton, a Geneva-based activist with the pro-democracy group Burma Campaign UK. . “And I’m sure the military also thinks that by condemning it, they are snatching hope from the people, but in reality they are doing the exact opposite because the people have not lost hope. They are still facing the military. “
The trial against Suu Kyi in the capital, Naipito, was closed to the media, diplomats and viewers, and her lawyers were barred from speaking to the media. Evening news on state television confirmed the verdict.
Following Suu Kyi’s party’s victory in the 2020 general election, lawmakers were not allowed to take their seats when the army took power on February 1, 2021, arresting Suu Kyi and many senior colleagues in her party and government. The military said it acted because of massive election fraud, but independent election observers found no serious irregularities.
The takeover was met with large-scale non-violent protests across the country, which were put to death by security forces, killing nearly 1,800 civilians, according to a monitoring group by the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners.
As repression escalated, armed resistance against the military government grew, and some UN experts now characterize the country as in a state of civil war.
Suu Kyi has not been seen or allowed to speak in public since she was detained and held in an undisclosed location. However, at the last hearing in the case last week, she appeared in good health and asked her supporters to “stay united,” said a lawyer familiar with the proceedings, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to disclose information.
In earlier cases, Suu Kyi was sentenced to six years in prison on charges of illegal import and possession of a walkie-talkie, violation of coronavirus restrictions and rebellion.
In Wednesday’s lawsuit, she was accused of receiving $ 600,000 and seven gold bars in 2017-18 from Fio Min Thein, a former chief minister of Yangon, the country’s largest city and a senior member of its political party. Her lawyers, before being served with closure orders late last year, said she rejected all his testimony against her as “absurd”.
The other nine cases currently pending under the Anti-Corruption Act include several involving the purchase and rental of a helicopter by one of its former cabinet ministers.
Suu Kyi has also been accused of diverting money earmarked for charitable donations to build a residence, and of abusing her position to receive rental property at lower than market prices for a foundation named after her mother. anti-corruption announced that several of its alleged actions had deprived the state of revenues it would otherwise have earned.
Another allegation of corruption, in which she accepted a bribe, has not yet been brought to justice.
Suu Kyi was also tried on charges of violating the Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years, and on election fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of three years.
“The days of Aung San Suu Kyi as a free woman are practically over. Myanmar’s junta and the country’s kangaroo courts are stepping up to expel Aung San Suu Kyi for something that could ultimately be the equivalent of a life sentence, given her advanced age, “said Phil Robertson, a deputy. Director of Human Rights Watch for Asia. “Destroying people’s democracy in Myanmar also means getting rid of Aung San Suu Kyi, and the junta leaves nothing to chance.”
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A Myanmar court has sentenced Suu Kyi to five years in prison for corruption
Source link A Myanmar court has sentenced Suu Kyi to five years in prison for corruption