Myanmar junta charges Suu Kyi with fraud during 2020 polls

Myanmar junta charges Suu Kyi with fraud during 2020 polls

Fifteen other officials — including former president Win Myint and the chairman of the election commission — faced the same charge

Myanmar's junta has charged ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi with electoral fraud during 2020 polls that her party won in a landslide, state media reported on Tuesday.

Suu Kyi was accused of "election fraud and lawless actions", state-run newspaper “Global New Light” of Myanmar reported, without giving details on when court proceedings would begin.

Fifteen other officials — including former president Win Myint and the chairman of the election commission — faced the same charge, the report added.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since a military coup in February sparked nationwide protests and a deadly crackdown on dissent.

Detained since the putsch, Suu Kyi, 76, faces a raft of charges including illegally importing walkie talkies, sedition and corruption, and faces decades in jail if convicted.

She is already on trial for flouting coronavirus restrictions while campaigning ahead of the election, in which her National League for Democracy party (NLD) trounced a military-aligned party.

International observers said the 2020 polls were largely free and fair.

The junta has threatened to dissolve the NLD and last month jailed Win Htein, a close Suu Kyi aide and high-ranking leader, to 20 years on treason charges.

More than 1,250 people have been killed by Myanmar junta security forces since the coup and over 10,000 arrested, according to a local monitoring group.

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Meanwhile, American journalist Danny Fenster, who spent nearly six months in jail in military-ruled Myanmar and was sentenced last week to 11 years of hard labour, was freed on Monday and began his journey home.

Fenster was handed over to former US diplomat Bill Richardson, who helped negotiate the release, and the two landed in Doha, Qatar.

"I'm feeling all right physically,” a bearded Fenster, in baggy drawstring pants and a knit hat, told journalists on the tarmac. "It’s just the same privations and things that come with any form of incarceration. You just go a little stir-crazy. The longer it drags on, the more worried you are that it’s just never going to end. So that was the biggest concern, just staying sane through that.”

While still jailed, Fenster told his lawyer that he believed he had COVID-19, though prison authorities denied that.

Fenster, the managing editor of online magazine Frontier Myanmar, was convicted Friday of spreading false or inflammatory information, contacting illegal organizations and violating visa regulations. Days before his conviction, he learned he had been charged with additional violations of terrorism and treason statutes that put him at risk of an even longer sentence of life in prison.

He is one of more than 100 journalists, media officials or publishers who have been detained since the military ousted the elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in February, and his was the harshest sentence yet.

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