Myanmar’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been found guilty of electoral fraud and sentenced to three years in jail with hard labour, a sentence that adds to the 17 years in prison that she was already handed for other offences.
The Nobel laureate and figurehead for Myanmar’s opposition to decades of military rule has been detained since a coup early last year. She denies all the allegations against her.
On Friday, news agencies cited sources as reporting that Aung San Suu Kyi was judged to have committed fraud in a November 2020 general election that her National League for Democracy (NLD) won with an overwhelming majority, trouncing a party created by the country’s powerful military.
The sentence on Friday by a special court at a prison in the capital, Naypyidaw, was conveyed by a legal official who insisted on anonymity for fear of being punished by the military authorities, who have restricted the release of information about Aung San Suu Kyi’s trials.
The court source told the Associated Press that Aung San Suu Kyi and two other defendants in the case appeared in good health.
He said that the country’s overthrown President Win Myint and the former minister of the president’s office, Min Thu, who were co-defendants in the case with Aung San Suu Kyi, also received sentences of three years.
All three received prison terms with labour, a category of punishment distinct from hard labour that can involve light workshop activities. Lawyers will file appeals in the coming days, the source added.
Al Jazeera’s Tony Cheng, reporting from Bangkok, said the sentence announced on Friday means that Aung San Suu Kyi’s combined prison terms would take her out of politics for the next 20 years, and there are more cases to be heard.
“The intention here is clear from the military, who’ve been pushing very hard with these cases… they are just piling years and years, and more on more case on top,” Cheng said.
“Clearly their intention is to keep her out of the limelight and away from any election that may happen in the future,” he said.
The election fraud charge against Aung San Suu Kyi was filed in November by the Union Election Commission, whose members were replaced by the military after it seized power.
The commission charged that she and her colleagues violated provisions in the constitution by allegedly influencing the old commission.
A spokesperson for the ruling military council did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.
The military seized power in February 2021 to stop Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD from forming a new government after the election that the military said had instances of fraud that had not been properly investigated.
More than 2,200 people have been killed and at least 15,000 arrested in the military’s crackdown on dissent since it seized power, according to a local monitoring group.
The NLD has denied fraud and said it won fairly.
Aung San Suu Kyi, 77, has been on trial for more than a year on multiple charges, ranging from corruption and incitement to leaks of official secrets.
Her trials have been held behind closed doors in the capital, Naypyidaw, and the military’s statements on the proceedings have been limited. A gag order has also been imposed on her lawyers.