A court in military-ruled Myanmar has sentenced Aung San Suu Kyi to five years in jail after finding the civilian leader guilty in the first of 11 corruption cases against her, according to media reports.
The Reuters and Associated Press news agencies, citing sources with knowledge of the matter, said the sentence was announced in Myanmar’s capital, Naypyidaw, on Wednesday.
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The judge handed down the verdict within moments of the court convening, Reuters reported.
The case centred on allegations that Aung San Suu Kyi, 76, accepted 11.4 kg (402 oz) of gold and cash payments totalling $600,000 from her protege-turned-accuser, former Yangon chief minister Phyo Min Thein.
She had denied the charges and called the allegations “absurd”.
‘A life sentence’
The Nobel laureate, who led Myanmar for five years before being forced from office when the military seized power in a coup in February 2021, has been charged with at least 18 offences, which carry a combined maximum jail term approaching 190 years if she is found guilty.
She has already been sentenced to six years of imprisonment in other cases.
It was not immediately clear if Aung San Suu Kyi would be transferred to a prison. She has been held in an undisclosed location, where Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said she could remain after earlier guilty verdicts in other cases.
The international community has dismissed the trials as farcical and has demanded her immediate release.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at the Human Rights Watch, condemned the latest verdict.
“The days of Aung San Suu Kyi as a free woman are effectively over,” he said in a tweet. “Myanmar’s junta and the country’s kangaroo courts are walking in lockstep to put Aung San Suu Kyi away for what could ultimately be the equivalent of a life sentence, given her advanced age.
“Destroying democracy in Myanmar also means getting rid of Aung San Suu Kyi, and the junta is leaving nothing to chance.”
"…what could ultimately be the equivalent of a life sentence, given her advanced age. This conviction on bogus corruption charges just piles on more years behind bars. Sadly, there’s more where that came from in the coming months, with many additional trials to follow." #Burma pic.twitter.com/3ByGCN7Rh2
— Phil Robertson (@Reaproy) April 27, 2022
The military says Aung San Suu Kyi is on trial because she committed crimes and is being given due process by an independent judiciary. It has refused to allow her visits, including by a special Southeast Asian envoy trying to end the crisis.
A spokesperson for the military was not immediately available for comment.
Nay Phone Latt, a former official in Aung San Suu Kyi’s ousted ruling party, said court decisions were temporary, because military rule would not last long.
“We do not recognise the terrorist junta’s rulings, legislation, or the judiciary,” said Nay Phone Latt, a member of the shadow National Unity Government, which has declared a people’s revolt against military rule.
“I don’t care how long they want to sentence, whether it’s one year, two years, or whatever they want. This won’t last.”
Since her arrest on the morning of February 1 last year, Aung San Suu Kyi has been charged with multiple crimes, from violations of electoral and state secrets laws to incitement and corruption. Her supporters say the accusations are trumped up to kill off any chance of a political comeback.