Ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced to 4 years in prison – USA TODAY

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Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced Monday to four years imprisonment on charges of inciting dissent and breaking COVID-19 pandemic rules. 

The verdict by a special court in Myanmar is the first ruling connected to a series of criminal charges the 76-year-old Nobel laureate is facing after the country’s army seized power in February. If she is found guilty in all the cases, she could be in prison for life. 

Former President Win Myint was also jailed for four years under the same charges. 

Myanmar’s army toppled Suu Kyi’s civilian elected government in a coup after it claimed massive voting fraud by her National League for Democracy party. However, independent election observers did not detect any major irregularities.

Suu Kyi previously spent 15 years under house arrest in Myanmar, starting in 1989.

Up close: Applause for Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi turned to criticism

Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director for Human Rights Watch, said the charges were “bogus” and that this “trial was one hundred percent political from day one, and was done with clear intent to lock her away for good so she can never again contest military rule.” Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations’ Human Rights Chief, said it was a “sham trial” and that the verdict would only “deepen rejection of the coup.”

There was no immediate reaction from the White House. 

Suu Kyi has a reputation as an international democracy advocate and humanitarian but her international profile was badly damaged for failing to speak out on behalf of the Rohingya, a minority group living in Myanmar – formerly known as Burma – where they are not recognized by the government, denied citizenship and have been subject to violent persecution by Myanmar’s Buddhist nationalist majority.

When she was detained in February, Suu Kyi was Myanmar’s state counselor and foreign minister, roles that gave her powers similar to that of a prime minister in Myanmar’s then slow transition to democracy from military rule.

February’s coup led to nationwide nonviolent demonstrations, which security forces quashed with deadly force. They have killed about 1,300 civilians, according to a detailed tally compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

American journalist Danny Fenster was freed from prison in Myanmar last month after spending six months imprisoned. He was was convicted of spreading false or inflammatory information, contacting illegal organizations and violating visa regulations. Fenster, who was sentenced to 11 years in a Myanmar prison, denied the charges. He was released with the help of former U.S. diplomat Bill Richardson.  

Danny Fenster: U.S. journalist freed after 6 months in Myanmar jail