The Nobel laureate, who was ousted from power in a 2021 coup, has been charged with at least 18 offences, which carry combined maximum jail terms of more than 100 years if found guilty.

Suu Kyi’s trial in the capital Naypyitaw was closed to the media, diplomats and spectators, and her lawyers were barred from speaking to the press.
Suu Kyi’s trial in the capital Naypyitaw was closed to the media, diplomats and spectators, and her lawyers were barred from speaking to the press. (AP Archive)

A court in military-ruled Myanmar has convicted the country’s former leader Aung San Suu Kyi of corruption and sentenced her to five years in prison in the first of several corruption cases against her.

News of Wednesday’s verdict came from a legal official who asked not to be identified because he is not authorised to release such information.

She was accused of receiving $600,000 and seven gold bars in 2017-18 from Phyo Min Thein, the former chief minister of Yangon, the country’s biggest city and a senior member of her political party.

Her lawyers, before they were served with gag orders late last year, said she rejected all his testimony against her as “absurd.”

Suu Kyi has already been sentenced to six years imprisonment in other cases and faces 10 more corruption charges.

Convictions in the other cases could bring sentences of more than 100 years in prison in total for a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who already spent years in detention for defying military rule.

READ MORE: Myanmar junta sentences Suu Kyi to four more years in prison

Long list of cases

In earlier cases, Suu Kyi was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment on convictions of illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies, violating coronavirus restrictions and sedition.

The nine other cases currently being tried under the Anti-Corruption Act include several related to the purchase and rental of a helicopter by one of her former Cabinet ministers.

Suu Kyi is also charged with diverting money meant as charitable donations to build a residence, and with misusing her position to obtain rental properties at lower-than-market prices for a foundation named after her mother.

The state Anti-Corruption Commission has declared that several of her alleged actions deprived the state of revenue it would otherwise have earned.

Suu Kyi is also being tried on a charge of violating the Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years, and on a charge alleging election fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of three years.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory in the 2020 general election, but lawmakers were not allowed to take their seats when the army seized power on February 1, 2021.

They arrested Suu Kyi and many senior colleagues in her party and government, alleging there had been massive electoral fraud. Independent election observers didn’t find any major irregularities.

Her supporters and independent legal experts consider her prosecution an unjust move to discredit Suu Kyi and legitimise the military’s seizure of power while keeping the 76-year-old elected leader from returning to an active role in politics.

READ MORE: World reacts to 'politically motivated' jailing of Myanmar's Suu Kyi

Source: AP