Myanmar's Suu Kyi makes first in-person court appearance, says party will exist as long as people exist

Myanmar's Suu Kyi makes first in-person court appearance, says party will exist as long as people exist

Suu Kyi had been charged with several criminal offenses, but her only previous court appearances had been by video link

Myanmar's ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi appeared in court in person on Monday for the first time since the military arrested her when it seized power on February 1, Myanmar media reported.

One of her lawyers, Min Min Soe, told The Associated Press by phone that Suu Kyi was able to meet with her defence team before her hearing began at a special court set up inside the city council building in Naypyitaw, the capital. The hearing's purpose was procedural.

Myanmar's Suu Kyi makes first in-person court appearance, says party will exist as long as people exist
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The lawyers also met with Win Myint, who was president in the government that Suu Kyi led as state counsellor, and a defendant on some of the same charges she faces.

Suu Kyi had been charged with several criminal offenses, but her only previous court appearances had been by video link, and she had not been allowed to meet in person with any of her lawyers.

Min Min Soe said Suu Kyi had a message for Myanmar's people to the effect that her National League for Democracy party would stand by them.

"The main thing (she said) is that she always wishes good health and well-being for all the people, and she also said that since the NLD was founded for the people, the NLD will exist as long as the people exist," said Min Min Soe said after the hearing.

"She looks fresh, healthy and full of confidence," she added.

Monday's hearing concerned several of the six charges Suu Kyi faces.

These are two counts of violating the Natural Disaster Management Law for violating COVID-19 pandemic restrictions during the 2020 election campaign; illegally importing walkie-talkies that were for her bodyguards' use; unlicensed use of the radios; and spreading information that could cause public alarm or unrest.

The most serious charge that Suu Kyi faces is breaching the colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which carries a penalty of up to 14 years' imprisonment, but that is being handled by a separate court.

Suu Kyi's supporters say the proceedings against her are politically motivated and meant to try to legitimise the military's seizure of power and discredit her. If convicted of any of the offences, she could be banned from running in the election that the junta has said it will hold within one or two years of its takeover.

The military ousted Suu Kyi's government less than three months after her National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory in a general election that would have given it a second five-year term in office. Before the start of democratic reforms a decade ago, Myanmar was ruled by the military for 50 years.

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