The trial of deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi began on Monday, more than four months after the military seized power in a coup.
The military regime has brought an eclectic mix of charges against Aung San Suu Kyi, who was returned to office after her National League for Democracy won a landslide victory in elections last November, including claims she accepted illegal payments of gold and violated a colonial-era secrecy law.
A special court in Naypyidaw, the capital, heard a police major testify that the 75-year-old broke coronavirus restrictions while campaigning during the polls, while another testified on separate charges accusing her of illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies, her lawyer Min Min Soe told AFP news agency.
Aung San Suu Kyi was hit with additional corruption charges last week over claims she illegally accepted $600,000 in cash and approximately 11kg (24.2 pounds) of gold.
Journalists were barred from proceedings in court, and an AFP reporter said there was a heavy police presence outside.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyers, who have struggled to gain access to their client, say they expect the trial to wrap up by July 26.
A separate trial is scheduled to start on Tuesday over sedition charges she faces alongside overthrown president Win Myint and another senior member of the NLD.
If convicted of all charges, Aung San Suu Kyi faces more than a decade in jail.
“It is a show trial motivated only by political reasons,” said Debbie Stothard, Coordinator of the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma.
“Min Aung Hlaing [military chief] is determined to lock up Aung San Suu Kyi for the rest of her life. If he could, he would probably charge her under every law available.”
Human Rights Watch said the allegations were “bogus and politically motivated” with the intention of nullifying the NLD victory and preventing Aung San Suu Kyi from running for office again.
“This trial is clearly the opening salvo in an overall strategy to neuter Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy party as a force that can challenge military rule in the future,” said deputy Asia director Phil Robertson.
Near-daily protests have rocked Myanmar since the generals’ February 1 putsch. A mass uprising has been met with a brutal military crackdown that has killed more than 850 civilians, according to a local monitoring group.