By Rhea Mogul, CNN
A court in military-run Myanmar has sentenced Aung San Suu Kyi to seven years in prison for corruption, a source familiar with the case told CNN, bringing an end to a string of secretive and highly-politicized proceedings against the ousted former leader.
Friday’s verdict is the final punishment meted out to the 77-year-old, a democratically elected figurehead of opposition to decades of military rule who led Myanmar for five years before being forced from power in a violent coup in early 2021.
The ruling Friday found Suu Kyi guilty of corruption in relation to the purchase, repair and rental of a helicopter for use during natural disasters and state affairs, including rescues and emergencies, the source said.
She now faces a total of 33 years in jail, including three years of hard labor, the source said, meaning she could spend the rest of her life behind bars.
Suu Kyi has previously been convicted of multiple offenses, including electoral fraud and receiving bribes, according to sources.
She has denied all of the charges levied against her, according to the source, and her lawyers have said they are politically motivated.
She is being held in solitary confinement at a prison in the capital Naypyidaw and her trials have taken place behind closed doors, with limited information reported by state media and a gag order imposed on her lawyers.
Myanmar has been torn by violence and economic paralysis since the army intervened to prevent Suu Kyi forming a new government, three months after her party was re-elected in a landslide election against military-backed opposition.
Meanwhile, rights groups have repeatedly expressed concerns about the punishment of pro-democracy activists in the country since the military seized power.
“The convictions aim to both permanently sideline (Suu Kyi), as well as undermine and ultimately negate her NLD (National League for Democracy) party’s landslide victory in the November 2020 election,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement Friday.
“From start to finish, the junta grabbed whatever it could to manufacture cases against her with full confidence that the country’s kangaroo courts would come back with whatever punitive judgments the military wanted.”
Last week, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) called on the military junta to release all political prisoners, including Suu Kyi and former President Win Myint, in its first resolution passed on the Southeast Asian country since its independence.
In the two years since the military seized power, freedoms and rights in Myanmar have deteriorated markedly. State executions have returned and thousands of people have been arrested for protesting against military rule.
In November, the junta released more than 6,000 prisoners under an amnesty, state media reported, including a former British ambassador, an Australian economist and a Japanese journalist.
The pardons came after strong criticism of the junta at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit.
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