A Myanmar court on Wednesday sentenced Aung San Suu Kyi to five years in jail for corruption, part of a barrage of criminal cases that could see her jailed for decades.
Suu Kyi has been in custody since the dissolution of her civilian administration in February last year over perceived irregularity in the 2020 general election – a move that has plunged the nation into turmoil.
In the latest case, the Nobel laureate was accused of accepting a bribe of $600,000 in cash and gold bars.
After two days of delays, the special court in the military-built capital Naypyidaw handed down its verdict and sentence early on Wednesday.
“Regarding taking gold and dollars from U Phyo Min Thein, the court sentenced her to five years’ imprisonment,” junta spokesperson Zaw Min Tun told AFP.
“She will be under house arrest. I do not know whether she asked for appeal. They are working according to the legal way. As far as I know, she’s in good health.”
Local media, citing unnamed sources close to the court, later reported she plans to appeal.
Wednesday’s sentencing earned rebukes from abroad.
The EU slammed the trial as “politically motivated” and “yet another major setback for democracy in Myanmar since the military coup”.
At the UN, deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Suu Kyi was not afforded a fair hearing, and that UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres “wants all of the political prisoners – and that includes Aung San Suu Kyi – to be released”.
The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee for its part branded the sentencing a “travesty” and slammed the military’s “brazen persecution of the democratic leaders of Myanmar.”
Suu Kyi still faces a raft of other criminal charges, including violating the official secrets act, corruption and electoral fraud, and could be jailed for more than 100 years if convicted on all counts.
The 76-year-old had already been sentenced to six years in jail for incitement against the military, breaching Covid-19 rules and breaking a telecommunications law – although she will remain under house arrest while she fights other charges.
Journalists have been barred from attending the court hearings and Suu Kyi’s lawyers have been banned from speaking to the media.
She remains confined to an undisclosed location in the capital, with her link to the outside world limited to brief pre-trial meetings with lawyers.
“The days of Aung San Suu Kyi as a free woman are effectively over,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, told AFP.
“Destroying popular democracy in Myanmar also means getting rid of Aung San Suu Kyi, and the junta is leaving nothing to chance.”