In the latest of a long list of closed trials that have lasted more than a year, a military-controlled court in Myanmar has sentenced deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi to an additional seven years in prison.
She was found guilty of five corruption charges related to the misuse of state funds for the purchase and lease of a helicopter.
Since Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was forcibly ousted as the country’s state adviser at the start of the military coup in February 2021, she has been imprisoned, often in solitary confinement, and charged with multiple crimes had already occurred. more than 26 years in prison. These include taking bribes, illegally owning walkie-talkies, and leasing government-owned land at discounted rates.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s legal team has repeatedly argued that she is not guilty. She herself said in November that she was “only giving instructions according to office procedures”.
Rights groups have long claimed the series of indictments was “fabricated” as an attempt to detain the 77-year-old figurehead of democracy – she is currently in a Naypyidaw prison – and diminished her influence.
“This conviction and the continued imprisonment of State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi are an integral part of the junta’s ongoing assault on the civilian population of Myanmar,” said Patrick Phongsathorn, senior advocate at Fortify Rights.
According to local media, there was hope that Aung San Suu Kyi would have her sentence commuted as part of a general amnesty in honor of the New Year and the 75th anniversary of Myanmar’s Independence Day, which falls on January 4. Around this time last year, the junta released a number of political prisoners and reduced Aung San Suu Kyi’s sentence by two years.
The leaders are among more than 16,650 others, including children and pro-democracy activists, who have been arrested since the coup began. Reports of torture alongside targeted killings have become commonplace.
According to the Political Prisoner Relief Organization, the military is responsible for the deaths of more than 2,680 people.
Earlier this month, the UN Security Council, in its first resolution on Myanmar since the brutal conflict began, called for the release of political prisoners, unfettered humanitarian access and “an immediate end to all forms of violence”.
This latest indictment, Phongsathorn said, showed that despite such calls, the junta was determined to “continue its reign of terror into 2023.”
“Instead of trying to negotiate with this terrorist regime, the international community must take action to starve the junta of arms, funds and diplomatic recognition.”
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