By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA (Reuters) – U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Monday denounced a four-year jail term handed down to Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi after a “sham trial” and called for her immediate release.
The conviction of Suu Kyi “closes yet another door to political dialogue” in Myanmar, where the military took power on Feb. 1, and “will only deepen rejection of the coup”, Bachelet said in a statement in Geneva. A court jailed Suu Kyi for four years on Monday on charges of incitement and breaching coronavirus restrictions, said a source in a case that critics described as “farcical”. “The conviction of the State Counsellor following a sham trial in secretive proceedings before a military-controlled court is nothing but politically motivated,” Bachelet said. “The military is attempting to instrumentalize the courts to remove all political opposition.”
Ravina Shamdasani, a Bachelet spokesperson, told Reuters Television that the proceedings had failed to meet the country’s domestic and international legal obligations for a fair trial. Suu Kyi, 76, still faces charges of corruption and electoral fraud, Bachelet said. She also said that the army, known as the Tatmadaw, had detained more than 10,000 opponents since the coup and that at least 175 people, including many members of Suu Kyi’s National League of Democracy (NLD) party, were reported to have died in custody “most likely due to ill-treatment or torture”.
She called for the immediate release of all those unlawfully detained. Bachelet also strong condemned what she called a “vicious, utterly reprehensible” attack on Sunday in the main city of Yangon, where security forces used a truck to “ram into unarmed anti-coup protesters and then fired upon the group using live ammunition”. Five people were killed, according to media and witnesses. “This coupled with the sentencing of Aung San Suu Kyi sends a signal that the military is desperate to legitimize its rule, but in fact it is accomplishing exactly the opposite. It is confirming that it is an illegitimate takeover of Myanmar,” Shamdasani said.