Myanmar's ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to four years in prison by a special court on Monday on charges that her supporters say are political. File Photo by Diego Azubel/EPA-EFE
Dec. 6 (UPI) -- A Myanmar court sentenced deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi to four years in prison on Monday for incitement and violation of COVID-19 safety rules, the first decisions to be handed down in a series of charges by the military junta who overthrew her government.
Suu Kyi, 76, was arrested in February during a military coup that overturned the results of a democratic election. She is facing 11 criminal cases in all, including charges of corruption and violating the Official Secrets Act, with possible sentences that could total more than 100 years.
The Nobel laureate, who previously spent 15 years under house arrest, has denied all allegations. Her supporters and international watchdogs have condemned the charges as politically motivated.
The ruling was handed down during a closed trial at a special court in the capital city of Naypyidaw, independent local news outlets reported, citing sources close to the court. Suu Kyi's lawyers were placed under a gag order in October, preventing them from sharing information about the case. Her co-defendant, ousted President Win Myint, was also sentenced to four years in prison.
Rights organization Amnesty International called Monday's court decision "farcical and corrupt."
"The harsh sentences handed down to Aung San Suu Kyi on these bogus charges are the latest example of the military's determination to eliminate all opposition and suffocate freedoms in Myanmar," deputy regional director for campaigns Ming Yu Hah said in a statement.
"As violence escalates, displacing tens of thousands of people and setting up a humanitarian crisis in the middle of an ongoing pandemic, the situation in Myanmar today is alarming in the extreme," she said. "Without a decisive, unified and swift international response, this can and will get worse."
Since the Feb. 1 military coup, more than 1,300 civilians have been killed, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a group that is monitoring the junta's violent crackdown in the country.
Monday's decision comes just one day after five anti-junta protesters were struck and killed by a military vehicle in Yangon. The U.S. Embassy in Myanmar said in a statement that it was "horrified by reports that security forces opened fire against, ran over and killed several peaceful protesters."
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 the results were fraudulent -- charges that were refuted by the country's election committee, as well as independent observers from several monitoring bodies.