Home>News>World>Trial of Aung San Suu Kyi begins in closed courtoom in Myanmar

Trial of Aung San Suu Kyi begins in closed courtoom in Myanmar

World
14.06.2021
208
Trial of Aung San Suu Kyi begins in closed courtoom in Myanmar
A poster featuring Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

The trial of Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi began on Monday in a closed courtroom in Naypyidaw, as the military junta escalated its attempts to remove her as a political threat.

No journalists were present at the hearing inside the Naypyidaw council compound, where there was a heavy police presence. The defence lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said Aung San Suu Kyi “seemed not very well” in court, but that throughout the hearing “she seemed quite interested and paid keen attention.” She has toothache, according to her lawyers, who were escorted to the courtroom by police.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been in detention since 1 February when the military seized power, and had just three meetings with her legal team to prepare for the start of the trial. She has been prevented from using the internet or reading anything other than state-controlled media for the past four months.

She faces a wide range of charges, including three that were addressed on Monday. Plaintiffs testified that she breached a natural disaster law by breaking coronavirus restrictions in the run-up to last year’s election, and that she broke a communications law and an import law by illegally possessing walkie-talkies.

The court also heard testimony alleging that the ousted president, Win Myint, had broken a natural disaster management law.

Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said the cases brought against Aung San Suu Kyi were an attempt to “nullify her landslide election victory in the November 2020 election and prevent her from ever running for office again”.

There was little likelihood she would receive a fair trial, Roberston said. “In fact, the junta gives every indication that this is just the beginning and they will continue to pile on additional cases against Suu Kyi to keep her locked away into the distant future.”

The military’s seizure of power has been defiantly opposed by the public, which voted overwhelmingly for Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) in last year’s election.

Though her international stature diminished following a wave of military violence targeting the country’s marginalised Muslim Rohingya community, Aung San Suu Kyi, who previously spent a total of 15 years in detention campaigning against military rule, is widely revered domestically as an icon of democracy.

Street demonstrations have dwindled since the coup, owing to the military’s brutal violence against protesters, but many workers remain on strike, bringing essential services to a standstill.

More than 860 people have been killed by the junta since the coup, according to the advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma). Security forces have repeatedly opened fire at protesters and bystanders, killing dozens of children.

In response, grassroots defence groups have formed across the country, fighting back against the military raids and targeting army officials in shootings and bomb attacks, including in the main city, Yangon.

At least 4,863 people are in detention or have been sentenced by the military, which has arrested anyone it suspects of organising against the coup, often during night-time raids.

On Monday state media reported that a former head of the country’s Covid vaccination campaign, Dr Htar Htar Lin, had been arrested and faced several charges, including of high treason for colluding with the national unity government, which was established by pro-democracy politicians and has been labelled a terrorist group by the military.

Doctors and nurses were among the first to protest against the coup, and many are treating patients in secret, underground clinics because they refuse to work in junta-controlled hospitals.

On Monday an American journalist detained since March was released after charges against him were dropped, his lawyer told AFP. Nathan Maung, who founded the local Kamayut Media outlet, has been detained under a colonial-era law that criminalises encouraging dissent against the military.

The junta has said it will hold new elections within the next two years, though the public and analysts are extremely sceptical of such promises. The military ruled Myanmar for half a century before transitioning towards democracy in 2011. If Aung San Suu Kyi is convicted, she could be barred from running in any future vote.

On Tuesday the court will hear further cases against Aung San Suu Kyi. These include a charge of incitement against her, Win Myint and Dr Myo Aung, the Naypyidaw council chairman and mayor of Naypyidaw city.

Aung San Suu Kyi is also accused of breaching the official secrets act, and of corruption charges, though these allegations will be handled separately. According to state media, she allededly accepted $600,000 cash and 11.4kg of gold in bribes, and misused her authority to rent land. Khin Maung Zaw described the claims as absurd.

The military has justified seizing power by accusing the NLD of widespread voter fraud, a claim rejected by a group of independent observers, the Asian Network for Free Elections. The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development party fell to a humiliating defeat in the vote.

Author:guardian

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