Jan. 10 (UPI) — A military court in Myanmar sentenced deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday to an additional four years in prison for illegally possessing walkie-talkies and violating COVID-19 health restrictions.
The decisions were the second to be handed down in a series of cases brought by the military junta that overthrew the civilian Myanmar government almost a year ago.
Suu Kyi, 76, was also given a four-year sentence last month on a different pair of convictions, a term that was later reduced to two years.
The Nobel laureate, who previously spent 15 years under house arrest, has denied the charges against her. Supporters and international watchdogs have condemned the charges as politically motivated.
Monday’s rulings found Suu Kyi guilty of violating Myanmar’s import-export and communications laws over walkie-talkies that were seized in a raid on her home during the Feb. 1 military coup, Myanmar Now reported. The verdict came during a closed trial at a special court in the capital city of Naypyidaw.
Suu Kyi still faces seven other charges, including corruption and violating the Official Secrets Act, with possible sentences that could total more than 100 years.
Human Rights Watch called the latest round of convictions “ludicrous.”
“The Myanmar junta’s courtroom circus of secret proceedings on bogus charges is all about steadily piling up more convictions against Aung San Suu Kyi so that she will remain in prison indefinitely,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
“Once again, Aung San Suu Kyi has become a symbol of what is happening to her country and returned to the role of political hostage,” Robertson said. “Fortunately for her and the future of Myanmar, the Myanmar people’s movement has grown well beyond just the leadership of one woman, and one political party.”
A resistance movement that emerged immediately after the coup has been met with a brutal crackdown by the junta, which has killed about 1,500 people and arrested thousands since the government takeover, according to Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
International outrage grew recently after a Christmas Eve massacre by the military in eastern Myanmar killed at least 35, including children and a pair of aid workers from charity group Save the Children.
The United Nations Security Council condemned the killings and stressed “the need to ensure accountability for this act.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was “alarmed by the military regime’s brutality” and “widespread atrocities” and joined calls for an international arms embargo against the junta.
Late Monday, Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., chairman of the House foreign affairs committee, issued a statement condemning the “fraudulent sentencing” and “politically motivated charges” against Suu Kyi.
“As we approach the one-year anniversary of the Tatmadaw’s illegal and illegitimate coup, we cannot allow the military junta to continue operating with impunity,” he said, urging the Congress to pass the bipartisan Burma Unified Through Rigorous Military Accountability Act of 2021, unveiled in October to punish those who staged the coup with sanctions and prohibit the import of precious and semi-precious stones from the country.
“The United States must demonstrate our solidarity with the Burmese people and the cause of democracy,” he said. “We cannot be silent as the military harasses, tortures and murders innocent civilians.”
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won a November 2020 general election in a landslide over the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, picking up 396 of the 498 contested seats in parliament.
Myanmar’s military, known as the Tatmadaw, claimed without evidence that the results were fraudulent and mounted the coup three months later. The claims of election fraud were refuted by the country’s election committee, as well as independent observers from several monitoring bodies and numerous Western nations.