Election fraud trial of Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi begins
BANGKOK (AP) — Ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi went on trial on Monday on election fraud charges, the latest in a series of criminal prosecutions by the military-run government in which she has already been sentenced to six years in prison.
The army seized power and arrested Suu Kyi in February last year, claiming widespread voter fraud in the 2020 general election, an allegation not corroborated by independent election observers. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won the election by a landslide, while the military-backed party did poorly.
The military’s takeover prompted widespread peaceful protests and civil disobedience that security forces suppressed with lethal force. About 1,500 civilians have been killed, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. Some opponents of the military have turned to armed resistance in response.
Suu Kyi, 76, has faced a raft of charges since she was taken into custody. Her supporters and human rights groups say the cases against her are baseless and have been contrived to bar her return to politics and participation in a new election the army has promised by 2023. All of the trials are closed, and a gag order has been placed on the defense lawyers.
The election fraud charge against Suu Kyi was filed in November last year by the state election commission, whose members were appointed by the military government. Former President Win Myint and former Minister of the President’s Office Min Thu are co-defendants in this case.
A conviction in the case could lead to Suu Kyi’s party being dissolved and unable to participate in a new election.
The Union Election Commission said the defendants, including the former chairman of the commission, were “involved in electoral processes, election fraud and lawless actions” related to the polls.
A legal official familiar with Monday’s proceedings said Aung Myo Lwin, a director of the election commission, testified that Suu Kyi and her co-defendants illegally organized election committees in which state and regional ministers were included. The legal official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to release information, said Suu Kyi and the other defendants appeared to be in good health in court.
The trial is being held in the capital, Naypyitaw, and the penalty for the offense is three years’ imprisonment. The case is being prosecuted not under the Election Law, but under Section 130(A) of the Penal Code covering abuse of power in violation of provisions in the constitution and acts of Parliament.
Suu Kyi has already been sentenced to six years’ imprisonment after being convicted of illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies and violating coronavirus restrictions.
She is also being tried on the charge of violating the Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years, and five cases under anti-corruption laws, which carry a maximum sentence of 15 years each. Hearings on five additional corruption charges related to granting permission to rent and buy a helicopter have not yet started, and police earlier this month filed an 11th corruption charge against her,