Ex-Myanmar Leader Suu Kyi Gets 2 Years in Prison, More Sentencing Expected Next Week

Aung San Suu Kyi, the former state counsellor of Myanmar ousted by the military in February, was sentenced to two years in prison Monday and is awaiting sentencing on additional charges next week.

The Associated Press reported that one of her charges includes incitement for posts made on her National League for Democracy party's Facebook page after she and other leaders were detained on February 1.

She is accused of "spreading false or inflammatory information that could disturb public order" and of violating COVID-19 restrictions. Decisions on other charges are expected December 13 and 14. If convicted of all charges, she could face over 100 years in prison.

Suu Kyi is being held at an unknown location where she will serve her two-year sentence.

The military cited fraud in the November 2020 election as a reason for taking power, though according to AP, the state election commission and independent poll watching group ANFREL have found no significant evidence of it.

Suu Kyi's attorneys are expected to appeal the decision, arguing she cannot be held responsible for statements made when she was already detained.

Human rights groups condemned the decision. In the AP report, Amnesty International called it "the latest example of the military's determination to eliminate all opposition and suffocate freedoms in Myanmar."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar
A Myanmar court on Monday sentenced ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi to four years for incitement and breaking virus restrictions, then later in the day state TV announced that the country's military leader reduced the sentence to two years. Above, Suu Kyi waits to address judges of the International Court of Justice on the second day of three days of hearings in The Hague, Netherlands, on December 11, 2019. Peter Dejong, File/AP Photo

The convictions serve to cement a dramatic reversal of fortunes for the Nobel Peace laureate, who spent 15 years under house arrest for resisting the Southeast Asian nation's generals but then agreed to work alongside them when they promised to usher in democratic rule.

The court earlier offered a 10-month reduction in the sentence for time served, according to a legal official, who relayed the verdict to AP and who insisted on anonymity for fear of being punished by the authorities. The state TV report did not mention any credit for time served.

Suu Kyi is widely revered at home for her role in the country's pro-democracy movement—and was long viewed abroad as an icon of that struggle.

But since her release in 2010 and return to politics, she has been heavily criticized for the gamble she made: showing deference to the military while ignoring and, at times, even defending rights violations—most notably a 2017 crackdown on Rohingya Muslims that rights groups have labeled genocide.

While she has disputed allegations that army personnel killed Rohingya civilians, torched houses and raped women and she remains immensely popular at home, that stance has tarnished her reputation abroad.

Government officials could not immediately be reached for more details about Monday's ruling by a special court, a legacy of British colonial rule that is most often used for political cases.

Suu Kyi's trials are closed to the media and spectators, and her lawyers, who had been a source of information on the proceedings, were served with gag orders in October forbidding them from releasing information.

Defense lawyers are expected to file appeals in the coming days for Suu Kyi and two colleagues who were also convicted Monday, the legal official who relayed the verdict said. They have argued that Suu Kyi and a co-defendant, former President Win Myint, could not be held responsible for the statements on which the incitment charge was based because they were already in detention when the statements were posted. Win Myint's sentence was reduced along with Suu Kyi's.

February's seizure of power was met by nonviolent nationwide 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.

Amid the severe crackdown on peaceful protests, armed resistance has grown in the cities and countryside, to the point that U.N. experts have warned the country is sliding into civil war.

Protest marches on Sunday against the military government called for the release of Suu Kyi and others.

Other cases against her include the alleged unregistered import and use of walkie-talkies by her security guards; a violation of the Official Secrets Act, in which jailed Australian economist Sean Turnell is a co-defendant; and corruption charges.

The military-appointed election commission has also announced it intends to prosecute Suu Kyi and 15 other senior political figures for alleged fraud in the last election, which could result in her party being dissolved.

The military says its takeover was lawful and not a coup because the 2008 constitution—implemented under military rule—allows it to take control in certain emergencies. It argues that the 2020 general election contained widespread irregularities and thus constituted such an emergency.

Critics assert that the takeover bypassed the legal process for declaring an emergency because two key members who are supposed to take part in those consultations, Win Myint and Suu Kyi, were arrested beforehand.

Myanmar, protests
Aung San Suu Kyi, the former state counsellor of Myanmar ousted by the military in February, was sentenced to two years in prison Monday and is awaiting sentencing on additional charges next week. Above, Buddhist monks hold signs featuring images of Suu Kyi during a protest on February 13, 2021, in Yangon. Photo by Hkun Lat/Getty Images