BANGKOK: A court in military-ruled Myanmar on Monday convicted the country’s ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, on further corruption charges and extended her previous 11-year sentence by six years, a judicial official said. The trial took place behind closed doors, with no access to the media or the public, and her lawyers were barred by a gag order from revealing any information about the trial. In the four corruption cases decided on Monday, Suu Kyi was accused of abusing her position to rent public land at below-market prices and build a home with donations to charity. She received sentences of three years for each of the four counts, but the sentences for three of them are being served at the same time, giving her a total of six more years in prison.
She denied all allegations and her lawyers are expected to appeal.
She had previously been sentenced to 11 years in prison on previous trials on sedition, corruption and other charges after the military overthrew her elected government and arrested her in February 2021.
Analysts say the numerous indictments against her and her allies are an attempt to legitimize the military’s seizure of power and eliminate her from politics before the military holds an election it has promised next year.
Suu Kyi and her co-defendants have denied all allegations and their lawyers are expected to appeal in the coming days, said the judicial officer, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to release information and feared punishment from the authorities .
Other senior members of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party and her government have also been arrested and detained, and authorities have proposed dissolving the party before the next elections.
The army seized power and arrested Suu Kyi on February 1, 2021, the day her party would have started a second five-year term after winning a landslide victory in the November 2020 general election. The army said it acted because there had been massive voter fraud, but independent poll observers had found no major irregularities.
The army’s takeover sparked peaceful street protests across the country, which crushed security forces with deadly force and sparked what some UN experts are now calling a civil war. The military government has been accused of human rights abuses, including arbitrary arrests and killings, torture and military crackdowns, including airstrikes on civilians and the burning of entire villages.
Suu Kyi, 77, has been the face of opposition to military rule in Myanmar for more than three decades. Under house arrest, she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.
Her five years as civilian leader were marked by repression and military dominance, despite being Myanmar’s most democratic period since the 1962 coup.
Suu Kyi was charged under the Anti-Corruption Act with a total of 11 counts, each punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine.
In Monday’s verdicts, the judicial officer said Suu Kyi received a three-year sentence for building a residence for herself in Naypyitaw, allegedly with funds donated to a charitable foundation named after her mother and of which she is the chairman.
She was sentenced to three years in prison for allegedly using her position to rent properties in Yangon, the country’s largest city, for the same foundation, the official said.
The other two cases ruled on Monday were properties in Naypyitaw for which she allegedly abused her power to rent for the foundation at below market rates. She received a three-year prison sentence for each of these cases.
The three cases of criminal offenses in Naypyitaw are to be served at the same time.
Former Naypyitaw Mayor Myo Aung was a co-defendant in both cases in connection with issuing land lease permits. Ye Min Oo, the former vice mayor, is a co-defendant in one case and Min Thu, a former Naypyitaw Development Committee member, in the other case. Each received three-year prison terms.
The state anti-corruption commission that initiated the case had claimed that the rental rates agreed by the Naypyitaw Development Committee were lower than the rates set by the Ministry of Planning and Finance, so the lease should have been deprived of state revenue.