A junta court in Myanmar has sentenced the country’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi to another seven years in prison on five counts of alleged corruption, bringing the total number of years she must serve in detention to 33, sources close to Naypyidaw Prison Court told RFA Friday.
Former president Win Myint received the same sentence, according to the sources who declined to be named for security reasons.
Before Friday’s sentences were handed down, Suu Kyi, 77, had already been charged with 19 counts and sentenced to a total of 26 years in prison for 14 of them.
Win Myint, 71, had already been sentenced to five years in prison on three charges of incitement against the military, breaking coronavirus restrictions and election fraud.
The five cases heard Friday were filed by the ruling junta under Section 55 of the Anti-Corruption Law. They relate to the National League for Democracy-led government’s purchase, rental and maintenance of a helicopter for rescue operations paid for with funds from the National Disaster Risk Management Committee.
Both defendants received three-year sentences, to be served concurrently, for three cases related to renting the helicopter and one related to its maintenance, along with an additional four-year sentence related to the purchase of a new helicopter.
Suu Kyi sent prayers to the people of Myanmar and asked her lawyers to act with dignity and integrity, according to sources close to the court.
Suu Kyi and Win Myint testified throughout the trial that they were not guilty of bribery.
Former Vice President Henry Van Thio, who was not arrested after the military coup, testified for both defendants, saying they acted according to official procedures.
A lawyer, who was not involved in the cases, told RFA that it was not consistent with the law to find Suu Kyi and Win Myint guilty on all counts.
“There might be some cases in which people are found not guilty and released. From a legal perspective, it is inconsistent that they have been found guilty of all the charges and punishments have been imposed” said the lawyer, who wished to remain anonymous. “If courts find every case guilty and impose a punishment it is a violation of justice.”
Sources close to the court said Suu Kyi and Win Myint will appeal to the High Court.
‘Affront to the rule of law’
Junta spokesman Maj. Gen Zaw Min Tun told RFA in the past that Suu Kyi had been judged guilty and that no one is above the law.
Suu Kyi was arrested with Win Myint in Naypyidaw shortly after the military seized power in a Feb. 1, 2021 coup. She had already spent 15 of 21 years under house arrest following her detention by the military State Peace and Development Council government in 1989 until her release in 2010.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner served as Myanmar’s state counselor from 2016 up until last year’s coup. Win Myint was Myanmar’s president from 2018 to 2021.
Political analyst Than Soe Naing said he believes the many years of prison sentences imposed on Suu Kyi are aimed at removing her from Myanmar’s political stage.
Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director Phil Robertson described Suu Kyi’s sentencing as farcical and totally unjust.
“The convictions aim to both permanently sideline her, as well as undermine and ultimately negate her NLD party’s landslide victory in the November 2020 election,” Robertson said in a statement.
“From start to finish, the junta grabbed whatever it could to manufacture cases against her with full confidence that the country’s kangaroo courts would come back with whatever punitive judgements the military wanted.”
Robertson called on the international community to respond by targeting the junta’s oil and gas revenue with strong sanctions.
Suu Kyi and Win Myint are both being held at Naypyidaw Prison and it is not yet clear whether they will be sent to another prison or placed under house arrest.
On Aug. 17, U.N. Special Representative for Myanmar Noeleen Heyzer met with junta leader Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, asking him to allow Suu Kyi to return to her home. Min Aung Hlaing replied that he would consider it once the cases against her were completed.
On Dec. 21 the United Nations Security Council adopted its first resolution on Myanmar in which it called for the immediate release of all arbitrarily detained prisoners, including Win Myint and Aung San Suu Kyi and an immediate end to violence.
In response to the sentencing, Min Lwin Oo, Burmese human rights attorney based in Norway, said the military court’s action was not in line with the rules of legal conduct because the regime filed multiple charges against Aung San Suu Kyi for a single act.
“This is like filing separate charges for each stab in a multiple stabbing cases. This is unjust and unprofessional,” he said.
U.S. State Department principal spokesman Vedant Patel tweeted on Friday that the regime’s final sentencing of Aung San Suu Kyi was “an affront to the rule of law” and said the United States remained committed to working with its international partners, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, to support the Burmese people’s calls for democracy and accountability.
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