Myanmar Supreme Court Rejects Ousted Leader SUU Kyi’s Special Appeal in Bribery Conviction

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Myanmar Supreme Court Rejects Ousted Leader SUU Kyi’s Special Appeal in Bribery Conviction
FILE - Myanmar’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi reviews an honor guard at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on April 30, 2019. A court in military-ruled Myanmar on Tuesday, April 26, 2022, postponed by a day delivering a verdict on the first of almost a dozen corruption cases filed against the country’s former leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith, File)

BANGKOK (AP) — Myanmar’s Supreme Court rejected Monday a special appeal by the country’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi against her conviction in a case in which she was charged with corruption for allegedly receiving gold and thousands of dollars as a bribe from a former political colleague, a legal official said.

Suu Kyi, 78, was arrested on 1 February 2021, when the military seized power from her elected government.

She is serving prison sentences totaling 27 years after being convicted of a string of criminal charges that her supporters and independent analysts say were concocted to discredit her and legitimize the military’s seizure of power.

Monday’s trial was closed to the media diplomats and spectators. Suu Kyi’s lawyers were barred by a gag order from talking about it. A legal official relayed the court’s decision to The Associated Press while insisting on anonymity for fear of being punished by the authorities

Suu Kyi was convicted, in the special appeal case, of receiving USD 600,000 and seven gold bars in 2017-18 from Phyo Min Thein, the former chief minister of Yangon, the country’s biggest city. He is also a former senior member of her political party.

She was sentenced to five years in prison in April last year after being found guilty of bribery. Her lawyers, before they were served with gag orders in late 2021, said she rejected all the corruption allegations against her as “absurd.”

Special appeals are usually the final stage of the appeals process in Myanmar. However, they can be re-examined by the Special Appeals Tribunal or the Plenary Tribunal if the chief justice sees an aspect of public interest.

Initial appeals filed by her lawyers in most of her cases have already been rejected at least once by the lower court. Appeals of her convictions on election fraud, breaching the country’s official secrets act and five other corruption charges are still being processed, the legal official said.

Suu Kyi’s legal team has faced several hurdles, including being unable to meet with her to receive her instructions.

They have applied at least six times for permission to meet with her since they last saw her in person in December 2022, but have not received any response, the legal official said.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the army’s 2021 takeover, which led to nationwide peaceful protests that the military government suppressed with deadly force, triggering widespread armed resistance that some U.N. officials characterized as civil war.

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BY GRANT PECK Associated Press