Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi jailed for five years for corruption

Deposed Myanmar leader denies allegations she accepted gold and hundreds of thousands of dollars from senior official

Myanmar's deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi in 2019. Reuters
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A court in military-ruled Myanmar sentenced deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi to five years in jail on Wednesday after finding her guilty in the first of 11 corruption cases against her.

The latest case centred on allegations that she accepted 11.4 kilograms of gold and cash payments totalling $600,000 from Phyo Min Thein, the former chief minister of the city of Yangon.

Ms Suu Kyi, the figurehead of Myanmar's struggle against military dictatorship, was ousted by the military last year.

She denied accepting the gold and money, calling the allegations absurd.

It was not immediately clear if Ms Suu Kyi, 76, would be transferred to a prison to serve the sentence.

The Nobel laureate, who led Myanmar for five years, has been charged with at least 18 offences.

She has already been sentenced to six years in jail in other cases and the maximum punishment under the Anti-Corruption Act is 15 years in prison and a fine.

Convictions in the other cases could bring sentences of more than 100 years in prison for Ms Suu Kyi, who previously spent years in detention for defying military rule.

Her trial in the capital Naypyidaw was closed to the media, diplomats and spectators, and her lawyers were barred from speaking to the press.

Since her arrest, Ms Suu Kyi has been held at an undisclosed location. Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing previously said she could remain there after convictions in December and January for comparatively minor offences.

A spokesman for the junta was not immediately available for comment and the miltary has refused to allow her visits, including by a special South-East Asian envoy trying to end the crisis.

Nay Phone Latt, a former official in Ms Suu Kyi's ousted party, told Reuters any court decisions were temporary, because military rule would not last long.

"We do not recognise the terrorist junta's rulings, legislation, or the judiciary ... the people do not acknowledge them either. I don't care how long they want to sentence, whether it's one year, two years, or whatever they want. This won't last."

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the coup and the international community has dismissed the trials as farcical and demanded Ms Suu Kyi's release.

The coup led to mass protests and a bloody crackdown on dissent, with more than 1,400 civilians killed, a local monitoring group has said.

Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory in the 2020 general election, but legislators were not allowed to take their seats when the army seized power on February 1, 2021, arresting Ms Suu Kyi and many senior colleagues in her party and government.

The army said it acted because there had been widespread electoral fraud, but independent election observers found no major irregularities.

In earlier cases, Ms Suu Kyi was sentenced to six years’ in jail on convictions of illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies, breaking coronavirus restrictions and sedition.

Ms Suu Kyi is also being tried on charges of breaching the Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years, and alleging election fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of three years.

Agencies contributed to this report.

Updated: April 27, 2022, 11:15 AM