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State media reported on Thursday that the Myanmar junta has accused ousted civilian leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi with corruption charges over claims that she accepted illegal payments in gold and over half a million dollars in cash.
The country has been in turmoil since generals toppled Suu Kyi on February 1, and nearly 850 civilians have been killed in brutal suppression by security forces during almost daily protests against the coup.
The 75-year-old Nobel laureate, who is in custody since the coup, faces a range of criminal charges on a wide range of issues, including incitement to mutiny and violation of colonial-era secrecy laws.
The latest allegations relate to allegations by the former chief minister of the Yangon region that Suu Kyi had illegally accepted $ 600,000 in cash from him, along with an estimated 11 kilograms of gold.
The Anti-Corruption Commission found evidence that Suu Kyi committed “corruption using her rank,” according to the state newspaper Global New Light of Myanmar.
“Thus, she was charged under Article 55 of the Anti-Corruption Law.”
She is also accused of abuse of power when renting two plots of land for her charitable foundation.
After weeks of litigation, two trials of Suu Kyi are due to begin next week, hearing testimony from witnesses.
In Naypyidaw, the remote capital built by the previous military regime, her trial will begin Monday on charges of violating restrictions during last year’s election campaign and possessing unlicensed radios.
A separate case is slated for June 15, in which she is accused of inciting mutiny along with ousted President Vin Myint and another senior member of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
Her lawyer, Khin Maung Zau, called the corruption allegations “absurd.”
“There is an undeniable political background that prevents her from appearing in the country and tarnishing its prestige,” he told AFP, saying she could face lengthy prison sentences on charges of secrecy and corruption.
“This is one of the reasons to charge her – to keep her out of the scene.”
Suu Kyi spent over 15 years under house arrest during the previous military regime before her release in 2010.
Its international credibility diminished following a wave of military violence against the marginalized, Buddhist-majority Muslim Rohingya community in Myanmar, displacing over a million people, but the coup brought Suu Kyi back to symbolism of a closed democracy.
The junta previously said it would hold new elections within two years, but also threatened to dissolve the NLD.
“This election – I cannot say if it will take place or not, and it may not be possible for the NLD to compete,” lawyer Suu Kyi Khin Maung Zau told AFP.
“But as for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, if she is found guilty on these charges, she will not be allowed to compete.”
Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing justified his seizure of power by citing alleged electoral fraud in the November vote in which NLD Suu Kyi won by a large margin.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated channel.)
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