Saturday, January 22, 2022

Myanmar’s Suu Kyi awaits walkie-talkie verdict

Suu Kyi faces three years in prison if found guilty on charges of illegally importing walkie-talkies and possessing walkie-talkies without a licence.

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Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi is expected to hear the verdict in her trial for illegally importing walkie-talkies on Monday, the latest in a catalogue of judgements in a junta court that could see her jailed for decades.

The Nobel laureate has been detained since the generals staged a coup against her government on Feb 1, ending the Southeast Asian country’s brief period of democracy.

Nationwide protests against the putsch have been met with a bloody crackdown, with more than 1,300 people killed and over 10,000 arrested according to a local monitoring group.

Suu Kyi, 76, faces three years in prison if found guilty on charges of illegally importing walkie-talkies and possessing walkie-talkies without a licence – the first case filed against her by the junta.

The charges stem from the early hours of the coup, when soldiers and police raided her house and allegedly found her in possession of the contraband equipment.

Under cross-examination members of the raiding party admitted they had not possessed a search warrant for the raid, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.

Analysts say it is unlikely Suu Kyi will be taken away to jail on Monday, and it is possible the opaque junta court will delay giving a verdict.

Earlier this month she was jailed for four years for incitement against the military and breaching Covid rules, in a ruling that was widely condemned by the international community.

Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing later commuted the term to two years, and said she would serve her sentence under house arrest in the capital Naypyidaw.

Suu Kyi is also charged with multiple counts of corruption – each of which is punishable by 15 years in jail – and violating the official secrets act.

Journalists have been barred from attending the special court hearings in Naypyidaw and her lawyers were recently banned from speaking to the media.

Incommunicado

Suu Kyi’s long spells of house arrest under a previous junta were spent at her family’s colonial-era mansion in Yangon, where she would appear before thousands gathered on the other side of her garden fence.

Min Aung Hlaing’s regime has confined her to an undisclosed location in the capital, with her link to the outside world limited to brief pre-trial meetings with her lawyers.

The junta has also threatened to dissolve her National League for Democracy, citing alleged fraud in 2020 elections international observers said were largely free and fair.

A junta-appointed election commission investigating allegations of fraud during the polls is due to report its findings in early 2022, the information minister told a press conference earlier this month.

In recent weeks, other senior members of the NLD have received long sentences.

A former chief minister was sentenced to 75 years in jail, while a close Suu Kyi aide was jailed for 20.

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