A court in Myanmar has convicted deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi in corruption cases, adding six years to her prison sentence, according to a legal official.
She already had been sentenced to 11 years in prison on sedition, corruption and other charges at earlier trials after the military deposed her elected government and detained her in February 2021.
Suu Kyi, 77, was convicted of misusing funds from the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation – an organisation she founded promoting health and education – to build a home, and leasing government-owned land at a discounted rate.
The trial was held behind closed doors, with no access for media or the public and her lawyers were forbidden by a gag order from revealing information about the proceedings.
In the four corruption cases decided on Monday, Suu Kyi was alleged to have abused her position to rent public land at below-market prices and to have built a residence with donations meant for charitable purposes.
She received sentences of three years for each of the four counts but the sentences for three of them will be served concurrently, giving her a total of six more years in prison.
She denied all the charges and her lawyers are expected to appeal.
Military’s power grab
Analysts say the numerous charges against her and her allies are an attempt to legitimise the military’s seizure of power while eliminating her from politics before the military holds an election it has promised for next year.
Suu Kyi and her co-defendants have denied all the allegations and their lawyers are expected to file appeals in the coming days, said the legal official, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorised to release information and he feared punishment by the authorities.
Other top members of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party and her government have also been arrested and imprisoned, and the authorities have suggested they might dissolve the party before the next election.
The army seized power and detained Suu Kyi on February 1, 2021, the day when her party would have started a second-five year term in office after it won a landslide victory in a November 2020 general election.
The army said it acted because there had been enormous voting fraud but independent election observers did not find any significant irregularities.
The army’s takeover sparked peaceful nationwide street protests that security forces quashed with lethal force, triggering armed resistance that some UN experts now characterise as a civil war.
The military government has been accused of human rights abuses including arbitrary arrests and killings, torture and military sweeps that include air attacks on civilians and the burning of entire villages.
Suu Kyi has been the face of opposition to military rule in Myanmar for more than 30 years. She won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize while under house arrest.
Her five years as its civilian government leader were marked by repression and military dominance even though it was Myanmar’s most democratic period since a 1962 coup.
Suu Kyi has been criticised for defending Myanmar military and police actions in Rakhine state which forced more than 700,000 Muslim-majority Rohingya to flee their homes and seek refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh.