Aung San Suu Kyi: Trial of ousted Myanmar leader begins

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Myanmar"s State Counsellor Aung San Suu KyiImage source, Reuters

The trial of ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has got under way, four months after a military coup removed the elected government from office.

She is charged with owning unlicensed walkie-talkies and violating Covid restrictions.

Later trials will focus on allegations of corruption and breaking the official secrets act.

Human rights groups have condemned the trial, describing it as an attempt to stop her running in future elections.

Ms Suu Kyi, 75, has been held under house arrest since the 1 February coup in Myanmar (also called Burma), and little has been seen or heard of her apart from her brief court appearances.

On Monday, Ms Suu Kyi's lawyers, who have met her only twice since she was detained, will cross-examine witnesses over the claims.

Another trial will begin on 15 June over sedition charges. If convicted of that charge alone, she faces up to 14 years in prison.

"There is an undeniable political background to keep her out of the scene of the country and to smear her prestige," her lawyer Khin Maung Zaw told AFP last week.

"That's one of the reasons to charge her - to keep her out of the scene."

The charges against Aung San Suu Kyi

  • Corruption, with carries a maximum jail term of 15 years
  • Violating the official secrets act, which carries a maximum jail term of 14 years
  • Violating import-export laws by illegally importing walkie-talkies, which carries a maximum jail term of three years
  • Violating the telecommunications law by importing walkie-talkies, which carries a maximum jail term of 1 year
  • Two charges of violating a natural disaster law, carrying a maximum jail term of three years each
  • Inciting public unrest, which carries a maximum jail term of three years
Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Ms Suu Kyi (left) pictured with former president Win Myint and doctor Myo Aung in court

The military has justified seizing power in February, alleging voter fraud in general elections held last year.

But independent election monitors say the election was largely free and fair, and the charges against Ms Suu Kyi have been widely criticised as politically motivated.

The coup triggered widespread demonstrations, and Myanmar's military has brutally cracked down on pro-democracy protesters, activists and journalists.

On Monday, a US journalist detained in Myanmar since March was released after charges against him were dropped. Nathan Maung is due to fly out of Myanmar on Tuesday, according to his lawyers.

Security forces have killed more than 800 people and detained nearly 5,000 to date, according to the monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

Media caption,
Could phone footage put Myanmar's leaders in jail?

Myanmar in profile

  • Myanmar, also known as Burma, became independent from Britain in 1948. For much of its modern history it has been under military rule
  • Restrictions began loosening from 2010 onwards, leading to free elections in 2015 and the installation of a government led by veteran opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi the following year
  • In 2017, Myanmar's army responded to attacks on police by Rohingya militants with a deadly crackdown, driving more than half a million Rohingya Muslims across the border into Bangladesh in what the UN later called a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing"