A court in Naypyidaw, Myanmar's capital, sentenced ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi to four years in prison on Monday, the first verdict in a growing number of charges the ruling military junta has filed against the beloved 76-year-old leader they deposed in a February coup. Monday's sentence was for inciting public unrest and breaking COVID-19 rules, and the verdicts were disclosed to The Associated Press, Reuters, and other news organizations by legal officials.
The junta has restricted information of the trial, and Suu Kyi has not been seen in public since her arrest. "The military has steadily piled on a dozen criminal charges against her," The Washington Post reports, and "she cumulatively faces more than a century in jail." All of the charges "are widely seen as contrived to discredit her and keep her from running in the next election," AP adds. "The constitution bars anyone sent to prison after being convicted of a crime from holding high office or becoming a lawmaker."
The military seized control on Feb. 1 as Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy was set to start governing after a sweeping victory in 2020 elections. The junta has claimed the vote was marred by widespread fraud, but outside experts say there is no evidence to back that up.
"Experts say the military, under commander in chief Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, is set on neutralizing Suu Kyi as a political threat by subjecting her to even harsher treatment than she endured during her years confined to her lakeside home in Yangon," the Post said. "Though Suu Kyi was barred from leaving during most of these two decades, the public knew of her whereabouts, and she was able to make brief appearances from behind the gates of her home and speak to diplomats."
The Naypyidaw court on Monday also sentenced two other National League for Democracy officials, ousted President Win Myint and former Naypyidaw Mayor Myo Aung, to two and four years, respectively.
Meanwhile, the junta continued it brutal crackdown on protesters Sunday, with a military truck ramming into a group of young demonstrators in Yangon and soldiers then firing into the crowd. At least five people were killed, local media reports. "With severe restrictions on nonviolent protest, armed resistance has grown in the cities and countryside, to the point that U.N. experts have warned the country is sliding into civil war," AP reports.