A court in military-ruled Myanmar is due to deliver the first verdicts on Tuesday in nearly a dozen cases against deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, on trial for offences that carry combined maximum jail sentences of more than 100 years.
The popular Nobel Peace Prize laureate led an elected civilian government that was ousted in a Feb 1 military coup and has been held incommunicado and on trial since June, with court hearings behind closed doors.
According to a source with knowledge of the proceedings, a judge will rule on Tuesday on charges of incitement and of breaking a natural disasters law by violating COVID-19 protocols, which carry jail terms of up to two and three years respectively.
Facing the same fate if found guilty is co-defendant Win Myint, the ousted president and Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party ally.
Neither the junta nor state media has provided information on the proceedings and a gag order has been imposed on the defendants’ lawyers. Suu Kyi is also charged with corruption and breaches of an official secrets act.
The United States and experts from the United Nations have condemned the indictments and demanded the defendants’ release.
The junta’s spokesman did not respond on Monday to calls, but has previously said Suu Kyi was being afforded due process by an independent judiciary.
Supporters of Suu Kyi, 76, say the cases are politically motivated and designed to end the political life of a woman who championed democracy for decades under previous military rulers, much of the time under house arrest.
Myanmar has been in chaos since her overthrow, with the junta struggling to consolidate power amid protests, strikes and armed resistance by militias allied with a shadow government in retaliation for the military’s use of deadly force.
The incitement case centres on an unsigned letter sent by the NLD while Suu Kyi was in detention, which urged embassies not to recognise the junta.
The other alleges COVID-19 violations during election campaigning last year. The two deny wrongdoing.
Richard Horsey, a Myanmar expert at the International Crisis Group, said the charges were designed to sideline a popularly elected leader.
“The generals know that these verdicts will convince no one, and their purpose is instead a display of regime power. But it is likely to only strengthen the resolve of the popular resistance movement,” he said.
Political analyst Khin Zaw Win said that regardless of Tuesday’s verdicts, a revolution was already under way in Myanmar that went beyond Suu Kyi.
“They are trying to make sure that she can no longer return to politics,” he said.
“They (the military) demonstrated atrocities and still continues. This can no longer be solved politically… The revolution is no longer about the NLD government or Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.”