The 79-year-old Win Htein had spent long stretches of time in and out of jail for campaigning against military rule.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyer has rejected the military’s allegations of corruption against Myanmar’s deposed civilian leader as “groundless”, calling it “illegal mud-slinging” by the generals who seized power from her last month as anti-coup protests continued on Friday.
The country has been in uproar since a February 1 putsch that saw Aung San Suu Kyi removed, detained and accused of several criminal charges including owning unlicensed walkie-talkies and violating coronavirus restrictions.
On Thursday, a military spokesman made new corruption accusations against her, saying a now-detained chief minister had admitted giving her $600,000 and more than 10kg of gold.
“This allegation against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the state counsellor, is groundless, especially regarding the dollars and gold bars – it is the most hilarious joke of all,” her lawyer Khin Maung Zaw told AFP news agency.
“I’ve never seen such an illegal mud-slinging. She might have other weaknesses but she doesn’t have weakness in moral principle,” he said referring to Aung San Suu Kyi’s silence on the atrocities against the Rohingya minority, nearly a million of whom were driven out of the country in a military offensive in 2017.
The veteran human rights lawyer – who in the past went up against Aung San Suu Kyi’s administration in defending two journalists reporting on the Rohingya crisis – said he has his differences with her.
“She may have her defects but bribery and corruption aren’t her traits,” he said.
Adding corruption charges to the accusations against Aung San Suu Kyi, 75, could mean she faces a harsher penalty. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate currently faces four comparatively minor charges – including illegally importing six walkie-talkie radios and flouting coronavirus restrictions.
A hearing is scheduled for March 15, but so far Khin Maung Zaw has not been able to have a private meeting with his client. Since she was detained on February 1, Aung San Suu Kyi has not been seen in public.
The military has justified its power grab citing electoral fraud in November elections that her National League for Democracy party won by a landslide.
Meanwhile, activists held more rallies on Friday, a day after a rights group said security forces killed 12 protesters – one of the deadliest days since the military took power.
Protests were held in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, and several other towns, according to photographs posted on social media by witnesses and local news organisations. There were no immediate reports of violence.
On Friday, Britain urged its citizens to leave Myanmar or, if they are unable to exit the country, to stay at home, saying violence was rising.
Britain has condemned the violence in Myanmar and has called for the restoration of democracy, signalling earlier this week that it was exploring additional sanctions on the country.
Thursday’s bloodshed also came hours after the UN Security Council had called for restraint from the army, which has been trying to put down daily anti-coup protests and paralysing strikes.
More than 70 people have been killed since the protests erupted against the coup, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) advocacy group said. Some 2,000 people have also been detained since the coup, it said.
UN human rights investigator Thomas Andrews told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva the military may have committed crimes against humanity, while Amnesty International accused the army of using lethal force against protesters.
The army did not respond to requests for comment on the latest deaths but the military spokesman said on Thursday the security forces were disciplined and used force only when necessary.
Military spokesman Zaw Min Tun reiterated the military would only be in charge for a certain period before holding an election. It said a state of emergency will last for a year, but has not set a date for the election.