End of the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, sentenced to 33 years in prison

The river trial of ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, overthrown by the army in early 2021, ended Friday with a prison sentence for corruption of an additional seven years, or 33 years in total behind bars.

The famous 77-year-old opponent, Nobel Peace Prize 1991, appeared in « good health », according to a judicial source. She could end up in prison a life marked by her fight for democracy.

Ms. Suu Kyi has been imprisoned since the February 1, 2021 military coup that ended a brief period of freedom in this Southeast Asian country with a turbulent history.

A court in the capital Naypyidaw, which sits exceptionally in the penitentiary center where she was placed in solitary confinement, found the ex-leader guilty on Friday of five counts of corruption against her.

The former Myanmar president Win Myint, co-accused in this last part of the trial, received the same sentence as her and both will appeal, according to the same source.

In a helicopter hire case for a minister, Ms Suu Kyi was accused of failing to follow the rules and causing « loss to the state ».

The corruption charges are « ridiculous », reacted Htwe Htwe Thein, associate professor at Australia’s Curtin University. “There is not the slightest trace of corruption in Aung San Suu Kyi’s leadership, governance or lifestyle. »

« All her cases are over, there are no more charges against her, » said the judicial source, who requested anonymity.

Corruption, electoral fraud, violation of state secrets and anti-COVID restrictions… Since the start of the legal proceedings in June 2021, Aung San Suu Kyi has been convicted of multiple offences.

The end of his 18-month-long trial, described as a sham by human rights groups, opens a new period of uncertainty in Myanmar, with the prospect of elections in 2023 promised by the junta, in search of legitimacy.

UN resolution

The two most recent legislative elections, in 2015 and 2020, propelled the National League for Democracy (NLD), the emblematic party founded by Aung San Suu Kyi in the late 1980s, to power.

The army justified its 2021 coup by claiming to have discovered millions of irregular votes in the last ballot, considered generally free by international observers.

His plan to hold new elections has been criticized by the United States, but welcomed by its close ally and arms supplier, Russia.

The UN Security Council this month called for the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi, in its first resolution in decades on the situation in Myanmar.

This call, which came in a rare moment of unity, was made possible thanks to the abstention of China and Russia, usual supporters of Naypyidaw.

« Judicial prank »

Since the coup, Ms Suu Kyi has only been seen a handful of times, in grainy photos taken by state media in an empty courtroom.

She could serve part of her prison sentence under house arrest, experts say.

Her multiple convictions are « synonymous with life imprisonment » given the age of the detainee, reacted to Agence France-Presse Phil Robertson, deputy director for Asia for the NGO Human Rights Watch.

« It’s the end of a legal farce. The question now is what the regime will do with Aung San Suu Kyi — allowing her to serve her sentence under house arrest, or allowing her to meet foreign envoys. But the regime is unlikely to rush to make such decisions,” said Richard Horsey, Myanmar expert with the International Crisis Group (ICG).

Aung San Suu Kyi remains a popular figure in Myanmar, even though her international image has been damaged by her failure to defend the Muslim Rohingya minority, victim of army abuses in 2016 and 2017 – a « genocide », according to Washington .

Myanmar descended after the coup into a period of chaos, with daily violence between the army and self-constituted militias who accuse each other of killing hundreds of civilians.

More than 2,600 people have been killed under the junta’s repression, according to a local NGO. Several rights groups have accused the Myanmar military of launching airstrikes on civilians, which constitute war crimes.

The army recorded on its side 4000 civilians killed.

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