The trial of Myanmar's ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi for election fraud will begin on Feb. 14, a legal official said Monday, one among a raft of charges the former politician is facing under the country's military rulers.
Suu Kyi was arrested by Myanmar's army when it seized power in February of 2021, alleging widespread voter fraud in the country's last election — an allegation that independent election observers have said they've seen no serious evidence for. The former civilian leader has already been sentenced to six years in prison on separate charges.
The legal official — who is acquainted with the charges facing Suu Kyi but spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to release information — said the former leader was accused of influencing the Union Election Commission in connection with the November 2020 election, which her National League for Democracy won by a landslide.
Widespread nonviolent demonstrations followed the army takeover, but after protests were put down with lethal force, armed resistance began. Some 1,500 civilians have died but the government has been unable to suppress an insurgency that is active in both urban and rural areas.
The election fraud charge against Suu Kyi was filed in November of last year by the state election commission, whose members were appointed by the military government.
The trial will be held in the capital Naypyitaw, and the penalty for the offense is three years' imprisonment. The case is being prosecuted not under the Election Law, but under Section 130(A) of the Penal Code covering provisions in the constitution and acts of Parliament.
Former President Win Myint and former Minister of the President's Office Min Thu are co-defendants in this case. Defense lawyers went to court Monday to hear the charges.
When the election commission announced its complaint last year, it said Suu Kyi and 15 other political figures were being charged. Details about the status of the other defendants were not immediately available.
The commission said Suu Kyi, Win Myint, other leading figures from her party and the commission's former chairman were "involved in electoral processes, election fraud and lawless actions" related to the polls.
A conviction in the case could lead to Suu Kyi's party being dissolved and unable to participate in a new election that the military has said would take place by 2023.
Suu Kyi has already been sentenced to six years' imprisonment after being convicted of illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies and violating coronavirus restrictions.
She is also being tried on the charge of violating the Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years, and five cases under anti-corruption laws, which carry a maximum sentence of 15 years each. Hearings on five additional corruption charges related to granting permission to rent and buy a helicopter have not yet started.
Her supporters and rights groups say the cases against her were contrived by the military to justify its takeover and prevent her from returning to politics.
The legal official said the trial is scheduled to last 180 days, with the prosecution being given the first 90 days to present its case, after which the defense has 90 days. The court sessions will be held on Monday every week.
Ahead of the one-year anniversary of Myanmar's military takeover, the U.S. announced on Monday new sanctions on top members of the country's judiciary — including its attorney general, supreme court chief justice and others.