Global condemnation of Myanmar's military junta is pouring in after deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi received a four-year prison term on Monday, according to state TV. It's the first verdict among a string of charges following a coup which deposed the southeast Asian country's elected civilian leadership on Feb.1. 76-year old Suu Kyi and other officials were immediately detained and placed under house arrest, which kicked off mass protests, with Myanmar teetering on the brink of civil war over much of the past year, but military patrols have brutally suppressed any counter-movement to restore civilian government.
Her guilty charge by a military court was based on allegations of "inciting public unrest" - and also bizarrely enough - breaching Covid health protocols, The New York Times reported. The four-year sentence hours after it was handed down was reduced to two years, as Al Jazeera reports: "her sentence was cut in half, as was the sentence of former President Win Myint, convicted alongside her" - citing an "amnesty" issued military authorities.
But it's only the first sentencing among close to a dozen counts, the most severe of which include corruption and violating the Official Secrets Act. The Times noted that if she's convicted on all counts, her sentence could be as much as 102 years in prison.
At the moment, the precise whereabouts of the detained elected leaders is unknown - with state media reports indicating their imprisonment would be served "at their current detention places".
The United Nations and European Union were among the first to condemn the trials and the verdict, with the former denouncing the "sham trial". "The conviction of the State Counsellor following a sham trial in secretive proceedings before a military controlled court is nothing but politically motivated," UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said. "This verdict against Aung San Suu Kyi will only deepen rejection of the coup. It will harden positions when what is needed is dialogue and a peaceful, political settlement of this crisis."
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell issued the following: "The European Union strongly condemns this politically motivated verdict, which constitutes another major setback for democracy in Myanmar since the military coup on 1 February 2021."
A timeline of events since the Feb.1 coup, via AFP:
The statement on behalf of all EU member states underscored that "The military’s actions show complete contempt for the will of the people, expressed clearly in the November 2020 elections."
The United States was also quick to condemn the proceedings, saying it only recognizes the country's democratically elected leaders. "The Burmese military regime’s unjust conviction of Aung San Suu Kyi and the repression of other democratically elected officials are yet further affronts to democracy and justice in Burma," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement, using the name that Washington has long used for Myanmar.
"We urge the regime to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all those unjustly detained, including other democratically elected officials," Blinken added.