Myanmar court again finds Aung San Suu Kyi guilty of corruption

Bangkok – A court in military-ruled Myanmar on Friday found the country’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi guilty of corruption and sentenced her to seven in the last of a series of criminal cases against her, a legal official said. years in prison.

The court’s action leaves her with a total of 33 years to serve in prison following a series of politically tinged prosecutions since the army toppled her elected government in February 2021.

The case, which concluded Friday, involved five offenses under the Anti-Corruption Act and followed seven other corruption convictions, each of which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a fine.

Aung San Suu Kyi, 77, was also found guilty of several other offences, including illegal importation and possession of walkie-talkies, breaching coronavirus restrictions, violating state secrets laws, sedition and election fraud.

All of her previous convictions brought her to a total of 26 years in prison.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s supporters and independent analysts say the numerous allegations against her and her allies are an attempt to legitimize the military’s power grab while removing her from politics ahead of elections the military has promised to hold next year.

Among the five counts of corruption decided on Friday, Aung San Suu Kyi is accused of abusing her position and negligently complying with financial regulations resulting in former government cabinet member Win Myat Aye’s hiring, causing loss of state funds, buying and maintaining helicopters.

Aung San Suu Kyi is the de facto head of government, holding the title of State Counselor. U Myint, who is president in her administration, is a co-defendant in the same case.

The verdict, delivered Friday in a specialized court at the main prison on the outskirts of the capital Nay Pyi Taw, was announced by a legal official who insisted on anonymity for fear of punishment from authorities. The trial was closed to the media, diplomats and bystanders, and her lawyer was barred from speaking about it due to a gag order.

Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to three years in prison for each of the four charges and was sentenced to three years in prison and four years in prison for a total of seven years in prison for offenses related to buying the helicopter, the legal official said. Win Myint also received the same sentence.

The defendant denies all charges and her lawyers are expected to file an appeal in the coming days.

The closure of Aung San Suu Kyi’s case, at least for now, raises the possibility that she will be allowed out visits, which she has been denied since her detention.

The junta has repeatedly rejected all requests to meet with her, including from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which seeks help in mediating an end to the Myanmar crisis, which some U.N. experts have characterized as a civil war because of armed opposition to military rule.

The United Nations announced after its special envoy Noeleen Heyzer met in August with the head of Myanmar’s military government, General Min Aung Hlaing, that he “expressed his willingness to arrange a meeting between her and Aung San Suu Kyi at an appropriate time.” meeting”.

“Depending on what happens after the judicial process is completed, we will consider how to proceed,” a statement from the junta said.

Aung San Suu Kyi is currently being held in a new separate building in Nay Pyi Taw Prison, near the court where she will be tried, and is assisted by three policewomen.

Allowing visits to Aung San Suu Kyi has been a key demand of many international critics of Myanmar’s military rulers, who face diplomatic and political sanctions for human rights abuses and suppression of democracy.

State-controlled media reported last year that Un Mya Aye, the central figure in the corruption case that ended on Friday, used the leased helicopter for only 84.95 hours between 2019 and 2021, but paid for a total of 720 flight hours, resulting in losses of more than 350. million dollars of funds.

He also allegedly failed to follow official procedures when buying state-owned helicopters, resulting in a further loss of 23 billion kyat ($11 million), the state-run Myanmar Global New Light newspaper said.

Win Myat Aye is now the minister of humanitarian affairs and disaster management in the government of national unity, a parallel government of elected lawmakers who were barred from office when the military seized power last year. The military has declared the NUG an illegal “terrorist organization”.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of Myanmar’s martyred independence hero General Aung San, spent nearly 15 years under house arrest as a political prisoner between 1989 and 2010.

Her hard-line stance against military rule in Burma made her a symbol of the nonviolent struggle for democracy and won her the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize.

Her National League for Democracy party initially came to power after easily winning the 2015 election, ushering in its first truly civilian government since a military coup in 1962.

But since taking power, Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticized for showing respect for the military while ignoring atrocities it is believed to have committed in a 2017 crackdown on the Muslim Rohingya minority.

Less than three months after her National League for Democracy won another landslide victory in the 2020 general election, elected lawmakers have been unable to sit in parliament and senior members of her government and party have been detained.

The military said it took the action because of massive vote-rigging in the 2020 election, but independent election observers did not find any major irregularities.

The military takeover in 2021 sparked widespread peaceful protests that security forces attempted to crush with deadly force and soon erupted into armed resistance.

Burmese security forces have killed at least 2,685 civilians and arrested 16,651, according to a detailed list compiled by the Political Prisoners Aid Society, an NGO that tracks killings and arrests.

Last Wednesday, in its first resolution on the situation in Myanmar since the military seized power, the UN Security Council called on Myanmar’s military rulers to release all “arbitrarily detained” prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi.

The UN resolution also called for an immediate end to the violence in Myanmar and urged all parties in the country to work towards dialogue and reconciliation aimed at a peaceful resolution of the crisis.

Myanmar’s foreign ministry countered that the situation in the Southeast Asian country was only about internal affairs and would not pose a threat to international peace and security.

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