Myanmar’s deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been charged with corruption by the country’s military junta, state media reported Thursday, adding to a raft of legal cases against the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
The new charge follows an investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission into several accusations leveled at Suu Kyi. It found her “guilty of committing corruption using her rank,” the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar said. She was charged under the Anti-Corruption Law section 55, and if found guilty could face a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.
Suu Kyi was overthrown from her position of state counselor and de facto leader of the country when the military seized power in a February 1 coup. She has been held in detention since then and charged with a series of crimes her lawyers and supporters consider to be politically motivated.
The commission said Suu Kyi “misused her authority” in renting land and a building to open the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation headquarters, where she served as chairperson. It said an application for the land to establish a Horticulture Vocational School as part of the foundation in the capital, Naypyidaw, was not carried out “in line with the procedures but with her power and authority.”
The commission also said Suu Kyi “illegally accepted” $600,000 in cash, as well as gold, while in office. The accusation comes from an earlier complaint in March from a former Yangon regional minister.
Aung San Suu Kyi appears in court in Naypyidaw on May 24 for the first time since the military detained her in a February coup.
Suu Kyi’s lawyer Khin Maung Zaw called the cases of bribery and corruption “absurd” and “groundless.”
“I’ve never met any statesman more honest and incorruptible as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. She might have defects but personal greed and corruption is not her traits. Those who accuse her with greed and corruption are spitting towards the sky,” he said.
Three other former officials were also charged with corruption, the Global New Light said. The case files were opened against them at police stations on Wednesday, the paper added.
Suu Kyi has been charged with a series of crimes that include illegal possession of walkie-talkies and violating coronavirus restrictions during election campaigning last year. Her trial for these charges starts June 14 and is expected to wrap up by July 26, according to her legal team.
Separately, Suu Kyi is accused of violating the Official Secrets Act and if found guilty faces a maximum of 14 years in prison.
The military, led by General Min Aung Hlaing, seized power after claiming widespread voter fraud during the November 2020 election, which saw Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party win a landslide and a second term in government. The previous election commission denied any voting discrepancies had taken place.
The four months since the coup has been marked with widespread bloodshed and violence as the junta cracked down on nationwide pro-democracy protests, a prolonged civil disobedience movement and, more recently, the emergence of “people’s resistance” fighters who are taking up arms against junta forces.
More than 850 people have been killed by junta-led security forces and 5,941 have been arrested since the coup, according to advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. Among them are protesters, activists, journalists, celebrities, government officials, as well as children and bystanders.
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