3 min read.Updated: 10 Jan 2022, 07:15 PM ISTFeliz Solomon, The Wall Street Journal
Country’s former civilian leader, whose government was overthrown in a military coup last year, is already serving two-year sentence
Myanmar’s ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was sentenced to four years in prison after being found guilty of three charges, the most recent verdict in a number of criminal cases brought against her by the country’s military junta that overthrew her government in a coup last year.
Ms. Suu Kyi, 76 years old, has been detained since the military seized power on Feb. 1. She has since been hit with a dozen charges that could see her imprisoned for the rest of her life and is serving a two-year sentence after a conviction in early December.
Lawyers for Ms. Suu Kyi, along with human-rights advocates, have said the charges are politically motivated and intended to keep Ms. Suu Kyi, who led her country’s democracy movement, out of public life. Her trials have been held behind closed doors, and her legal team was banned by the junta from speaking to the press.
A court in Myanmar convicted Ms. Suu Kyi on Monday on three charges, according to a person familiar with her case. The first two charges relate to allegations that she possessed illegally imported walkie-talkies at the time of her arrest. The third alleges that she broke pandemic-related restrictions on gatherings.
She was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment under the country’s import-export law and one year, to be served concurrently, under a telecommunications law, the person said. She was also sentenced to two years under a disaster-management law, bringing Monday’s sentence to a total of four years, the person added.
On Dec. 6, Ms. Suu Kyi was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment on charges of incitement and a separate charge of violating the disaster-management law, but her sentence was reduced to two years in a partial pardon by junta leader Gen. Min Aung Hlaing. She is serving her sentence at an undisclosed location, where she has been held since May.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called her first conviction an affront to democracy and justice in the country and urged Myanmar authorities to release her and others who had been detained. The country’s former President Win Myint and other officials from Ms. Suu Kyi’s ousted civilian administration also remain imprisoned.
The military takeover triggered mass protests nationwide, which were met with deadly force. More than 1,400 people have been killed and over 11,000 arrested since the coup, according to the nonprofit Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which monitors fatalities and arrests in the country.
In recent months, many of the junta’s opponents have joined an armed resistance movement. The military has intensified offensives against them, branding them as terrorists.
As the country’s most prominent pro-democracy advocate, Ms. Suu Kyi has spent long periods detained by the military in the past. She was held under house arrest for about 15 years under previous regimes, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 while still detained.
After she was freed, Ms. Suu Kyi led her political party, the National League for Democracy, to a landslide victory in the country’s first free elections in a quarter-century in 2015. The party secured a second term with an even bigger win in elections held in 2020.
The military said it seized power because of widespread fraud, though independent monitors have said the polls were mostly free and fair with no major irregularities. The junta has since annulled the results and says it plans to hold new elections, which the opposition would likely boycott.
Ms. Suu Kyi’s imprisonment leaves her political future uncertain, but activists and human-rights advocates say the coup ignited wider democratic opposition. “Fortunately for her and the future of Myanmar, the Myanmar people’s movement has grown well beyond just the leadership of one woman, and one political party," said Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch.
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