The trial of deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi began Monday, more than four months after a military coup, with witnesses from the junta testifying that the Nobel laureate flouted coronavirus restrictions and illegally imported walkie-talkies.
Almost daily protests have shaken Myanmar since the generals’ putsch on February 1.
According to a local monitoring group, a mass uprising has been met with a brutal military crackdown that killed more than 850 civilians.
The junta has filed an eclectic array of charges against the Nobel laureate, including allegations that she accepted illegal payments of gold and violated a colonial-era secrecy law.
On Monday, the court heard a police major testify that Suu Kyi violated coronavirus restrictions in last year’s election that her National League for Democracy (NLD) party won in a landslide, her lawyer Min Min Soe told AFP.
Another police major testified on separate charges, accusing her of illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies, she added.
Suu Kyi “paid a lot of attention” during the hearing, another member of her legal team, Khin Maung Zaw, said in a statement.
Journalists were barred from proceedings in the special court in the capital Naypyidaw, but an AFP reporter said many police were present outside.
Suu Kyi’s lawyers, who have struggled to access their client, have said they expect the trial to be concluded on July 26.
“I am confident that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will overcome this process,” Khin Maung Zaw told AFP after the hearing.
“And she seems determined to assert her rights regardless of the results.”
A separate trial will begin on Tuesday over sedition that she will face along with deposed President Win Myint and another senior member of the NLD.
If convicted on all charges, 75-year-old Suu Kyi faces more than 10 years in prison.
“It’s a show trial motivated only by political reasons,” Debbie Stothard, coordinator of the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma, told AFP.
“Min Aung Hlaing is determined to imprison Aung San Suu Kyi for the rest of her life. If he could, he would probably charge her under every available law.”
Suu Kyi was under house arrest for more than 15 years during the previous junta’s rule before being released in 2010.
Her international reputation diminished after her defense of military-led violence against Myanmar’s marginalized Muslim Rohingya community.
But the coup has returned Suu Kyi to the role of icon of secular democracy.
On Thursday, she was charged with additional corruption over allegations that she illegally accepted $600,000 in cash and about 11 kilograms of gold.
Her lawyer Khin Maung Zaw dismissed the new charges – which would see Suu Kyi face another long prison term – as “absurd”.
“There is an undeniable political background to keep her off the stage of the country and tarnish her prestige,” he told AFP last week.
“That’s one of the reasons for suing her – to keep her off the scene.”
Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing has justified his seizure of power by citing alleged electoral fraud in the November poll won by Suu Kyi’s NLD.
The junta has previously said it will hold new elections within two years, but has also threatened to dissolve the NLD.
It has also reacted violently to a growing mass movement against its rule – shooting protesters, targeting journalists and closing news channels.
On Monday, an American journalist who had been detained since March after charges against him were dropped, his lawyer told AFP.
Nathan Maung, who founded the local Kamayut Media outlet, has been detained under a colonial-era law criminalizing encouraging dissent against the military.