Former Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced to 5 years in prison


A court in military-ruled Myanmar has sentenced deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi to five years in jail on Wednesday after finding her guilty in the first of several corruption cases against her.

Suu Kyi, 76, led Myanmar for five years during a short period of tentative democracy before being forced from power in a coup in February 2021 by the military.

She has denied the prosecutors allegation that she accepted gold and hundreds of thousands of dollars in a bribe from a top political colleague.

Her supporters and independent legal experts consider Suu Kyi’s prosecution an unjust attempt to discredit her and legitimize the military’s seizure of power while preventing her from returning to an active role in politics.

The daughter of Aung San, Myanmar’s founding father, Suu Kyi became a public figure in 1988 during a failed uprising against a previous military government when she helped found the National League for Democracy party.

She spent 15 of the next 21 years under house arrest for leading a nonviolent struggle for democracy that earned her the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize.

When the army allowed an election in 2015, her party won a landslide victory and she became the de facto head of state. Her party won a greater majority in the 2020 polls.

Suu Kyi is widely revered at home for her role in the country’s pro-democracy movement — and was long viewed abroad as an icon of that struggle, epitomized by her years under house arrest.

But she also has been heavily criticised for showing deference to the military while ignoring and, at times, even defending rights violations — most notably a 2017 crackdown on Rohingya Muslims that rights groups have labeled genocide.

While she has disputed allegations that army personnel killed Rohingya civilians, torched houses and raped women and she remains immensely popular at home, that stance has tarnished her reputation abroad.

She has already been sentenced to six years’ imprisonment in other cases and faces 10 more corruption charges. The maximum punishment under the Anti-Corruption Act is 15 years in prison and a fine for each charge.

Convictions in the other cases could bring sentences of more than 100 years in prison in total.

“These are trumped-up charges, politically motivated, to keep her inside prison for such a long time and also are designed to keep her away from the political limelight,” said Wai Hnin Pwint Thon, a Geneva-based activist with the pro-democracy group Burma Campaign UK.

“And I’m sure the military is also thinking, by sentencing her, they are grabbing the hope away from people but, in reality, it’s doing completely the opposite because people haven’t lost hope. They are still standing up against the military.”

Suu Kyi’s trial in the capital, Naypyitaw, was closed to the media, diplomats and spectators, and her lawyers were barred from speaking to the media. The evening newscast on state television confirmed the sentence. (Source: AP News)