Myanmar court sentences ex-politician to 173 years in prison

Sentence appears to be the longest jail term given to a former member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s overthrown government and party.

Myanmar police standing in a line waiting to confront anti-coup protesters
Police stand guard as they wait for protests against the coup in Yangon, Myanmar, in February 2021 [File: Reuters]

A court in military-ruled Myanmar has handed a 148-year prison sentence to a former parliamentarian from the deposed National League for Democracy (NLD) party, adding to a previous conviction which will now see Win Myint Hlaing, 52, spend a total of 173 years in prison.

The sentence, which was handed down on Monday to Win Myint Hlaing after his conviction on terrorism charges, appeared to be the longest jail term given to any member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s government and NLD party since the military grabbed power in February 2021.

On Monday, the court in Magway district, located about 480km (300 miles) north of the commercial capital, Yangon, found Win Myint Hlaing guilty of eight offences under the counterterrorism act and sentenced him to 148 years, a person familiar with the legal proceedings told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity for fear of arrest.

Win Myint Hlain had already been convicted in March, April and June of five offences involving incitement and terrorism, for which he received sentences totalling 25 years, the person said.

Some of the incidents for which Win Myint Hlain was convicted most recently took place while he was already in prison, the person added.

Political trials in Myanmar are traditionally closed to the public so the evidence used to convict suspects is not known.

Long-term prisoners in Magway prison, including Win Myint Hlaing, are kept in shackles, a person with knowledge of the prison said.

Myanmar’s military rulers executed four political activists in July who were convicted on terrorism charges and anti-coup activities.

Aung San Suu Kyi, who was arrested on the day the army seized power, has been sentenced to 26 years in prison on charges her supporters say were fabricated to discredit her and prevent her from running in elections.

The military-controlled Global New Light of Myanmar media outlet reported last year that Win Myint Hlaing was in command of a local People’s Defence Force (PDF) unit and had collected guns and explosives used in “terror acts to undermine the peace and stability of the State”.

The PDF unit had attacked an education office, a bank, and police stations and had carried out bombings, arson attacks and assassinations, according to the news outlet.

Win Myint Hlain was elected to the local parliament of Magway region, in Myanmar’s central heartland, in 2015. He did not take part in the 2020 election but had participated in protests against the military before being arrested in Yaksawk township in eastern Shan state in November 2021.

His house in Magway’s Taungdwingyi township was seized by security forces a day after his arrest, forcing his family to flee.

The military’s takeover in Myanmar was initially met with widespread peaceful protests that were suppressed with lethal force, triggering an armed resistance that some United Nations experts say is now akin to a civil war.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies