Myanmar Junta to Start First Trial of Aung San Suu Kyi since February Coup



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The trial of ousted Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi will hear his first testimony in a junta court on Monday, more than four months after a military coup.

Nearly daily protests have rocked Myanmar since the generals’ coup toppled its government in February, ending a 10-year experiment with democracy.

The mass uprising has been met with brutal military crackdown that has killed more than 850 people, according to a local watchdog group.

The board has brought an eclectic series of charges against the Nobel laureate, from illegally accepting 11 kilograms of gold to violating a colonial-era secrecy law.

On Monday, her defense team will question witnesses on charges that she inappropriately imported walkie-talkies and scoffed at coronavirus restrictions during last year’s election that her National League for Democracy overwhelmingly won.

Her lawyers, who have been allowed to meet with her only twice since she was placed under house arrest, have said they expect the trial to conclude on July 26.

Hearings on the case will be held every Monday.

If convicted of all charges, Suu Kyi, 75, faces more than a decade in jail.

“We hope for the best, but we are prepared for the worst,” Khin Maung Zaw, one of Suu Kyi’s lawyers, told AFP before the hearing in the capital, Naypyidaw.

A separate case is scheduled to open on June 15, in which she is charged with sedition along with the ousted President Win Myint and another high-ranking member of the NLD.

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Suu Kyi spent more than 15 years under house arrest during the previous junta rule before her release in 2010.

His international stature declined after a wave of military violence against Myanmar’s marginalized Rohingya Muslim community, which is predominantly Buddhist, but the coup has returned Suu Kyi to the role of icon of cloistered democracy.

On Thursday, she was hit with additional corruption charges for illegally accepting $ 600,000 in cash and around 11 kilos of gold.

Her lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, dismissed the new charges, which could cause Suu Kyi to face another long prison term, as “absurd”.

“There is an undeniable political background to keeping her off the stage of the country and discrediting her prestige,” he told AFP last week.

“That is one of the reasons to accuse her: to keep her off the scene.”

Myanmar has plunged into a “human rights catastrophe” since the coup, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Friday, adding that the military leadership was “uniquely responsible” for the crisis.

Bachelet also criticized the widespread arrests in the country of activists, journalists and opponents of the regime, citing credible sources who say that at least 4,804 people remain in arbitrary detention.

Board Leader Min Aung Hlaing has justified his takeover by citing alleged electoral fraud in the November poll won by Suu Kyi’s NLD.

The board has previously said that it would hold new elections within two years, but has also threatened to dissolve the NLD.