A Myanmar judge on Tuesday delayed announcing a much-anticipated verdict against the country’s ousted civilian leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who faces a string of rulings that could keep her locked up for the rest of her life.
The 76-year-old, who was arrested in a military coup in February, faces 11 charges and a maximum jail term of 102 years. His trials were held behind closed doors in Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar. The junta has banned its five lawyers from speaking to the media, saying their communications could “destabilize the country.”
The court was due to deliver the first verdict on Tuesday for inciting public unrest, but the judge adjourned the case until next month, according to a source familiar with the matter. It was not clear why the judge announced the delay.
Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi is an imperfect heroine for a struggling nation.
She is presented as an almost divine figure among her supporters in Myanmar, who describe her as a defender of the country’s democracy, for which she won a Nobel Peace Prize. But his reputation on the international stage has been tarnished by his complicity in the army’s mass atrocities against the Rohingya.
Tuesday’s ruling on the charge of inciting public unrest was due a year after Ms Aung San Suu Kyi led her party to an overwhelming electoral victory, beating the opposition-backed opposition party.
A guilty verdict would likely galvanize a protest movement that has prompted thousands to take up arms against the military since February, when the generals took power. The United Nations and foreign governments have described the trials as politically motivated.
In the months following the coup, people gathered in the streets, doctors and nurses stopped working in protest, and many refused to pay taxes as part of a known campaign. under the name of the Civil Disobedience Movement.
Despite the threat of arrest, the movement still enjoys broad support. Growing numbers of soldiers are defecting, teaming up with armed protesters and insurgent groups to launch lightning attacks against the military. The junta responded by cracking down – it killed 1,297 people and arrested more than 10,500 others, according to the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners (Burma), a human rights organization based in Thailand.
The National Unity Government, a group of ousted civilian leaders, said last week it had raised $ 6.3 million from people who bought “bonds” to fund its revolution. For many of her supporters, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was considered the only politician capable of leading Myanmar to full democracy. The country had been ruled by the military for half a century since 1962. After Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was elected in 2015, she was forced to share power with the military, which appointed 25% of parliament. .
She has not been seen in public or been able to speak to anyone other than her lawyers since her arrest on February 1. officers arrested them, accusing them of electoral fraud. Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi denied the accusation.
Rights activists condemned the charge of incitement, saying it is used to intimidate critics of the military. It carries a maximum penalty of three years and states that anyone who “publishes or circulates a statement, rumor or report” with “intent to provoke, or who is likely to provoke, fear or alarm of the public ”could be held responsible.
Prosecutors continued to press charges against Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi as her case progressed. Tuesday’s verdict is the first of several expected to be announced in the coming months.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has long been a source of frustration among the Burmese military, so much so that she kept her under house arrest for almost 15 years until 2010.
Analysts say the Tatmadaw, as the Burmese army is called, resents its overwhelming popularity among the population. In 2015, when the country held national elections, its party, the National League for Democracy, won a landslide victory.
A year later, the NLD introduced a bill to Parliament to create a new post for Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi as State Councilor. The move was seen as a direct challenge to the Tatmadaw as it circumvented the country’s Constitution, which was written by the generals and barred Myanmar presidential candidates from having close family members who “must allegiance to a foreign power ”. (Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was married to a Briton, who is now deceased, and has two sons, who live abroad.)
As state councilor, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi declared herself above the president and appointed herself foreign minister, a move the military viewed as a takeover.
Political experts say Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has always had an icy relationship with Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who orchestrated the February coup that toppled her from power. For years, the two leaders sent messages through an intermediary, “like bitter divorcees,” according to David Mathieson, a senior Myanmar analyst.
But during her tenure, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was criticized for being too deferential to generals – she called her relationship with the military “not that bad” and said the generals in her cabinet were “kind enough. “. In 2019, she sadly defended the 2017 army crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority in The Hague, angering the international community.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is on trial on a host of charges, including corruption and violation of the Official Secrets Act, in addition to incitement to public unrest.
She faces a possible maximum sentence of 102 years in prison if convicted of the 11 charges she has been charged so far. Her supporters say the charges are fabricated to get her out of politics for good.
The five lawyers representing her have been placed under a very unusual gag order prohibiting them from speaking publicly about her case.
Five of the charges charge him with bribery, including accepting bribes in cash and gold. She called the accusations “absurd”.
She is on trial separately on a single charge of violating the colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which prohibits sharing state information that could be of use to an enemy. His co-defendants in the case are former finance officials and his Australian economic policy adviser, Sean Turnell, suggesting that the charges involve government spending.
Myanmar’s electoral commission, which was taken over by the regime, announced this month that it would bring electoral fraud charges against her and 15 other leaders of her party’s National League for Democracy. This case will be dealt with separately from its criminal trials and could result in the party being banned from participating in future elections.
The court is also expected to deliver a verdict soon on two counts of violating Covid-19 protocols. The charges stem from an episode of the 2020 election campaign in which she stood outside, with a face mask and face shield, with her dog, Taichito, by her side, and waved to supporters as they passed in vehicles . Video from the scene shows masked assistants and security personnel standing nearby, but socially distant.
Final arguments on two counts of illegally possessing and importing walkie-talkies are scheduled for next month. Her defense says the devices belonged to her security team, not her.
Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi is under house arrest in the capital, Naypyidaw, and tried in a special courtroom that was built in the living room of another house.