The Burmese junta has charged deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi with corruption over claims that she accepted illegal payments of gold and about US$600,000 in cash, state media reported yesterday.
The country has been in turmoil since the generals on Feb. 1 ousted Aung San Suu Kyi, with more than 850 civilians killed in a brutal crackdown by security forces on near-daily protests against the coup.
The 75-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who has been in custody since the putsch, is facing a raft of wide-ranging criminal charges, including sedition and breaching a colonial-era secrecy law.
The latest charges relate to allegations by a former Yangon government official that Aung San Suu Kyi illegally accepted US$600,000 in cash from him along with about 11kg of gold.
The Burmese Anti-Corruption Commission found evidence that she had committed “corruption using her rank,” the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported. “So she was charged under Anti-Corruption Law section 55.”
She is also accused of abusing her authority when renting two areas of land for her charitable foundation.
After weeks of legal wrangling, two of Aung San Suu Kyi’s trials are due to start in earnest next week, hearing evidence from witnesses.
In the capital, Naypyidaw, her trial on charges of contravening restrictions during last year’s election campaign and possessing unlicensed walkie-talkies is to start on Monday next week.
A separate case is scheduled to start the following day, in which she is charged with sedition alongside ousted Burmese President Win Myint and another senior member of her National League for Democracy party.
Her lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, called the corruption charges “absurd.”
“There is an undeniable political background to keep her out of the scene of the country and to smear her prestige,” Khin Maung Zaw told reporters, adding that she could face long prison terms on the secrecy and corruption charges.
“That’s one of the reasons to charge her — to keep her out of the scene,” he said.
Aung San Suu Kyi spent more than 15 years under house arrest during the previous military rule before her 2010 release.
Her international stature diminished following a wave of military violence targeting Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya community, but the coup has returned Aung San Suu Kyi to the role of cloistered democracy icon.
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