Trial for Myanmar’s Ousted Civilian Leader Nears Its End
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s ousted civilian leader, is expected to appear in court on Friday to receive the last of several verdicts handed down to her by the military regime, capping off a secretive 13 months of trial proceedings during which the 77-year-old Nobel laureate has already been sentenced to decades in prison.
Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was detained in a coup in February 2021. Since that time, the junta has charged her with a series of crimes, including corruption, election fraud, inciting public unrest and breaching Covid-19 protocols. Friday’s verdict stemmed from a set of corruption charges related to what prosecutors argue was Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s improper purchase of one helicopter and rental of another.
Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi and her political party won the November 2020 election in a landslide. Independent international observers declared the results free and fair. But less than three months after her election victory, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was detained by the military, a move that has drawn international condemnation.
Since the military seized power on Feb. 1, 2021, Myanmar has been racked by violence. Protests erupted across the country as the junta’s opponents mounted a civil disobedience movement and national strike. The military responded with brutal force, shooting and killing protesters in the streets. Thousands of armed resistance fighters have continued to battle the Tatmadaw, as the army in Myanmar is known, using guerrilla tactics and training in the jungle.
Last week, the United Nation’s Security Council adopted a resolution condemning the junta’s rights abuses in the aftermath of the coup.
The military-controlled Election Commission first brought election fraud charges against Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi in November 2021. During that trial, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior government officials were accused of manipulating voter lists to secure their victory over the military-backed party.
Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has denied all of the charges against her. The United Nations and other international organizations have demanded her freedom, though the junta has insisted that the charges are not politically motivated and has refused to let Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi speak with global leaders who have visited Myanmar in recent months.
By Friday, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi had already begun serving a 26-year prison sentence in connection with more than a dozen charges she has faced since the coup. In the most recent case, prosecutors argued that an investigation found Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi did not follow the proper protocols when she rented one helicopter and bought a second, some time between 2019 and 2021.
The latest verdicts come as the military seeks to minimize Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s influence in Myanmar, said U Kyee Myint, a human rights lawyer based in Yangon, Myanmar. Despite the regime’s efforts, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi is still revered by many in the country.
“As long as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is in politics, the military will never win,” Mr. Kyee Myint said. “That’s why long-term prison terms are imposed — to remove Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s influence in politics.”
Earlier this year, the country’s military-backed Supreme Court announced that it would auction off Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s residence, where she spent nearly 15 years under house arrest during a previous military regime. Since being detained in 2021, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has been allowed to speak only with her lawyers. They have been banned from speaking to the news media during the trials.