They serve to cement a dramatic turn of fortune for the Nobel Peace Prize winner, who spent 15 years under house arrest for standing up to the generals of the Southeast Asian nation but later agreed to work at their sides when they promised to inaugurate a democratic regime.
Monday’s verdict was the first in a series of cases against Suu Kyi, 76, since his arrest on February 1, the day the military seized power and barred his National League for Democracy party. start a second term.
If found guilty on all the charges she faces, Suu Kyi could be sentenced to over 100 years in prison. She is being held by the military in an unknown location – and state television has announced that she will serve her sentence there. That sentence was reduced hours after it was handed down in what the report called an amnesty ordered by the country’s military leader, rank-and-file General Min Aung Hlaing.
The court had previously proposed a 10-month reduction in the sentence for the time served, according to a legal official, who relayed the verdict to the Associated Press and insisted on anonymity for fear of being punished by the authorities . The state television report did not mention any credit for time spent in custody.
The military seized power citing massive electoral fraud in the November 2020 election, which Suu Kyi’s party won in a landslide. Independent election observers did not detect any major irregularities.
Opposition to the takeover was manifested almost immediately and remains strong, with armed resistance spreading after the army’s violent crackdown on peaceful protests. Monday’s verdicts could further escalate tensions.
The cases against Suu Kyi are widely seen as designed to discredit her and prevent her from standing in the next election.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called the procedure a “sham trial”, while Amnesty International said it was “the latest example of the determination of the army to eliminate all opposition and stifle freedoms in Myanmar.
Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch’s deputy director for Asia, said the trial was just the start of a process that “will most likely ensure that Suu Kyi is never allowed to be a free woman again.”
The United States joined others in calling for the release of Suu Kyi and other detainees.
“The regime’s continued disregard for the rule of law and its widespread use of violence against the Burmese people underscore the urgency of restoring the path to democracy in Burma,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. , using an old name for Myanmar.
As usual, China, a neighbor who has maintained friendly relations with Myanmar’s military leaders, declined to criticize the verdict.
Beijing hopes that “all parties in Myanmar will keep the country’s long-term interests in mind, narrow differences and continue the hard-won democratic transition process,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson told reporters on Monday. foreigners, Zhao Lijian.
Suu Kyi is widely revered at home for her role in the country’s pro-democracy movement – and has long been seen abroad as an icon of that struggle, embodied by her 15 years of house arrest.
But since her release in 2010, she has come under heavy criticism for the gamble she has made: to show deference to the military while ignoring and, at times, even defending rights violations – including a 2017 crackdown on Rohingya Muslims whom rights groups have called genocide.
While she has disputed claims that military personnel killed Rohingya civilians, torched homes and raped women and remains immensely popular at home, this position has tarnished her reputation abroad.
On Monday, she faced an incitement charge centered on statements posted on her party’s Facebook page after she and other party leaders were arrested by the military. She was accused of having disseminated false or inflammatory information likely to disturb public order. Additionally, she has been charged with violating coronavirus restrictions for her appearance at a campaign event ahead of last year’s election.
Suu Kyi’s trials are closed to media and spectators, and her lawyers, who had been a source of information on the proceedings, received gag orders in October banning them from disclosing information.
Defense lawyers are expected to appeal in the coming days for Suu Kyi and two of her colleagues who were also sentenced on Monday, said the legal official who relayed the verdict. They argued that Suu Kyi and a co-accused, former President Win Myint, could not be held responsible for the statements upon which the incitement charge was based, as they were already in detention at the time the statements were released.
Win Myint’s sentence was reduced along with that of Suu Kyi.
The February seizure was met with non-violent nationwide protests, which security forces cracked down on with lethal force. They killed around 1,300 civilians, according to a detailed count compiled by the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners.
Amidst the harsh crackdown on peaceful protests, armed resistance has grown in towns and countryside, to the point that UN experts have warned the country is descending into civil war.
Protest marches on Sunday against the military government called for the release of Suu Kyi and others.
Rulings in other cases against Suu Kyi are expected next week. Other cases against her include the unregistered importation and alleged use of walkie-talkies by her security officers; a violation of the Official Secrets Act, in which jailed Australian economist Sean Turnell is a co-accused; and accusations of corruption.
The military-appointed electoral commission also announced its intention to prosecute Suu Kyi and 15 other high-ranking politicians for alleged fraud in the last election, which could lead to the dissolution of his party.
The military says its takeover was legal and not a coup, as the 2008 constitution – implemented under military rule – allows it to take control in certain emergency situations. He argues that the 2020 general election contained widespread irregularities and therefore constituted such an emergency.
The state election commission and independent observers disputed the existence of substantial fraud. Critics also say the takeover bypassed the legal emergency declaration process.