Updated: May 25, 2021 06:20 AM GMT
This screengrab from a broadcast by Myawaddy TV on May 24 shows detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi (left) during her first court appearance since the military detained her in a coup on Feb. 1. (Photo: Myawaddy TV/AFP)
Myanmar’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi has appeared in court in person for the first time since she was locked up by the military junta following the Feb. 1 coup.
Junta-controlled television broadcast pictures of Suu Kyi in a court in Naypyitaw, Myanmar's remote capital, along with ousted president Win Myint and former mayor Myo Aung.
The 75-year-old Nobel peace laureate was seated on a chair and wearing a face mask with her hands on her lap.
During the half-hour meeting with her lawyers before the May 24 hearing, she looked healthy, but she has no access to newspapers and is not aware of the situation in the country, according to media reports citing her lawyers.
The lawyers quoted Suu Kyi as saying: “The National League for Democracy (NLD) was founded for the people and the party will exist as long as the people exist.”
She faces a raft of charges, from possession of a walkie-talkie to violating the Official Secrets Act, and could spend her remaining life in prison if found guilty.
She spent nearly two decades under house arrest as a pro-democracy champion
Suu Kyi had previously appeared in a court hearing via video link and some of the hearings were not held due to the lack of an internet connection.
Observers say the charges against the NLD leader are politically motivated and an attempt to sideline her and the NLD and prevent them from taking part in the upcoming elections held by the junta.
She spent nearly two decades under house arrest as a pro-democracy champion in Myanmar, which had been under iron-fisted military rule from 1962 to 2010.
The Southeast Asian country is again becoming isolated from the world after the military seized power in February after toppling the elected civilian government, abruptly ending a 10-year experiment with democracy.
On the same day Suu Kyi appeared in court, the military fired artillery shells at a Catholic church in Kayah, a predominantly Catholic region in eastern Myanmar.
The attack killed four people and at least four others were wounded as they took refuge inside Sacred Heart Church in Kantharyar village.
Sacred Heart Cathedral in Pekhon, Shan state, was also damaged by a military attack on May 24, according to Catholic sources.
Thousands of people in several villages in Kayah and neighboring Shan state have fled their homes and taken refuge at churches and convents following clashes between the military and people’s defense forces and the Karenni National Progressive Party.
Dr. Sasa, spokesperson for the National Unity Government, has appealed to the international community to take immediate action and intervene to end the senseless killing of civilians in Myanmar, destruction of churches and the targeting of oppressed and marginalized ethnic communities.
The military also raided a Karen Baptist church in Yangon on the night of May 22. They brutally beat and detained the pastor along with two young men, one of whom was reportedly a handicapped person.
“These attacks are part of the cycle of attacks on Christians and churches by the military, which have been well incriminated with strong and well-documented evidence of their crimes against the minority faiths and ethnic populations across the country,” Dr. Sasa, a Christian politician from Chin state, said in a statement on May 24.