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Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced to three more years in prison

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The Burmese junta on Thursday sentenced Aung San Suu Kyi to an additional three years in prison for violating the law on official secrets, during a river trial denounced as political by the international community. This umpteenth sentence comes on top of the 20 years in prison already pronounced against the former leader, in particular for corruption and electoral fraud, a reason for which the sentence was accompanied by forced labor.

Sentenced to 120 years in prison

The 77-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner faces a total of more than 120 years in prison for the multiple offenses of which the military accuses her. The court also sentenced his former adviser, the Australian economist Sean Turnell, as well as three other defendants, former ministers, to an identical sentence, according to the same source. “Sean Turnell, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the other three were sentenced to three years in prison each under the State Secrets Act,” the source told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding that Ms. Suu Kyi would appeal her verdict.

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Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong has rejected Sean Turnell’s conviction and called for his “immediate release”. The accumulation of convictions demonstrates that the junta has “no qualms about assuming its status as an international pariah”, said Elaine Pearson, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Concerted action” by countries is needed “to redress the human rights situation in the country”, she added.

In solitary confinement in a prison since the end of June

Arrested at the time of the putsch in February 2021, which ended a decade of democratic transition in Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi was placed in solitary confinement in a prison in Naypyidaw at the end of June. It is in this establishment in the Burmese capital that his trial continues, which began more than a year ago, behind closed doors, his lawyers being prohibited from speaking to the press and international organizations.

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Sean Turnell, an Australian economics professor, was an adviser to Aung San Suu Kyi when he was arrested days after the military coup. The source added that a separate charge was against him, under immigration law. His arrest sparked outrage among Australian diplomats, who lobbied Burma’s neighboring countries for help. The Burmese authorities also sentenced a former British ambassador to Burma and her artist husband to one year in prison at the end of August for violating immigration laws.

“Judicial Harassment”

Many voices denounce a judicial harassment which would be based on political motives, with the aim of definitively removing the daughter of the hero of independence, big winner of the 2015 and 2020 elections. Several of her relatives have been sentenced to heavy penalties. A former member of his party sentenced to death, Phyo Zeya Thaw, was executed at the end of July. The junta defends itself from these accusations and even promises to open negotiations with Aung San Suu Kyi once her trial is over.

“Although we could have taken tougher measures, we are lenient with her,” junta leader Min Aung Hlaing said in an August interview with the UN envoy, in remarks relayed by a state newspaper. Aung San Suu Kyi remains a popular figure in Burma, even if her international image has been damaged by her inability to defend the Muslim minority of the Rohingyas, victims of abuses by the army in 2016 and 2017 – a “genocide” according to Washington.

Elections in 2023?

Special envoys from the UN and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) were not allowed to meet her during their last visit, as a symbol of the failure of the diplomatic efforts undertaken for several months which have not brought Burma out of chaos. The army hopes to organize elections in the summer of 2023, as soon as the country is “peaceful and stable”, according to Min Aung Hlaing who also announced a “reform” of the electoral system.

The United States has already called on the international community not to support this project, a “sham” election, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Since the putsch, more than 2,200 civilians have been killed by the security forces and more than 15,000 arrested, according to a local NGO.

Source: Europe1

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