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Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi jailed for total of 33 years

The ousted leader's lawyers have been barred from speaking to the media
A protester holds up a poster featuring Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration against the military coup in front of the Central Bank of Myanmar in Yangon on Feb. 15, 2021

A protester holds up a poster featuring Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration against the military coup in front of the Central Bank of Myanmar in Yangon on Feb. 15, 2021. (Photo: AFP)

Published: December 31, 2022 04:34 AM GMT

Ousted Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to another seven years in jail as her long series of trials ended on Friday, with the Nobel laureate now facing more than three decades behind bars.

A prisoner of the military since a coup last year, Suu Kyi, 77, has been convicted on every charge leveled against her ranging from corruption to illegally possessing walkie-talkies and flouting Covid restrictions.

She was jailed on Friday for seven years on five counts of corruption related to the hiring, maintaining and purchase of a helicopter for a government minister, a case in which she allegedly caused "a loss to the state".

Suu Kyi -- sentenced to a total of 33 years following 18 months of court proceedings that rights groups have dismissed as a sham -- appeared in good health, a legal source familiar with the case told AFP.

"All her cases were finished and there are no more charges against her," said the source, who requested anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Journalists have been barred from attending the hearings and Suu Kyi's lawyers have been blocked from speaking to the media.

The road leading to the prison holding Suu Kyi in the military-built capital Naypyidaw has cleared of traffic ahead of the verdict, said an AFP correspondent in the city.

Former Myanmar president Win Myint, who was co-accused with Suu Kyi in the latest trial, received the same sentence, the source said, adding that both would lodge appeals.

Suu Kyi has been seen only once since her trial began -- in grainy state media photos from a bare courtroom -- and has been reliant on lawyers to relay messages to the world.

Many in Myanmar's democracy struggle, which Suu Kyi has dominated for decades, have abandoned her core principle of non-violence, with "People's Defence Forces" clashing regularly with the military across the country.

The United States and the European Union condemned Suu Kyi's sentencing, with Washington demanding her immediate release.

"The Burma military regime's final sentencing of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi is an affront to justice and the rule of law," a State Department spokesperson in Washington said.

The EU said her trials had been politically motivated, and also slammed Win Myint's sentencing.

"These trials were carried forward with no respect for due legal procedure or necessary judicial guarantees and are a clear attempt to exclude democratically elected leaders from political life," an EU spokesman in Brussels said.

Last week, the United Nations Security Council called on the junta to release Suu Kyi in its first resolution on Myanmar since the coup.

It was a rare moment of relative unity by the council after permanent members and junta allies China and Russia abstained.

'Ridiculous'

The corruption charges were "ridiculous", said Htwe Htwe Thein, an associate professor at Curtin University in Australia.

"Nothing in Aung San Suu Kyi's leadership, governance, or lifestyle indicates the smallest hint of corruption," she said.

Richard Horsey of the International Crisis Group said the question now was what to do with Suu Kyi.

"Whether to allow her to serve out her sentence under some form of house arrest, or grant foreign envoys limited access to her," Horsey said.

"But the regime is unlikely to be in any rush to make such decisions."

The military alleged widespread voter fraud during elections in November 2020 that were won resoundingly by Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), although international observers said the polls were largely free and fair.

The junta has since canceled the result and said it uncovered more than 11 million instances of voter fraud.

Suu Kyi's convictions "aim to both permanently sideline her, as well as undermine and ultimately negate her NLD party's landslide victory", said Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military seized power, ending the Southeast Asian nation's brief experiment with democracy and sparking huge protests.

The junta has responded with a crackdown that rights groups say includes razing villages, mass extrajudicial killings and air strikes on civilians.

More than one million people have been displaced since the coup, according to the United Nations children's agency.

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