A court in Myanmar has sentenced ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi to an additional three years imprisonment for alleged election fraud.
The 77-year-old has already been jailed by the military junta government for 17 years on various charges.
The latest verdict also carries potentially significant political consequences for Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party. Myanmar's military has frequently threatened to dissolve the party before a new election may be called in 2023.
Suu Kyi’s party won the 2020 general election in a landslide victory, but the army seized power in February 2021 and kept her from a second five-year term in office.
The junta claims that it acted due to widespread fraud in the polls, even though independent election observers did not find any major irregularities.
The military-appointed commission claimed it has found more than 11 million irregularities in voter lists that could have let voters cast multiple ballots or commit other fraud.
But a spokesperson for the Bangkok-based Asian Network for Free Elections reiterated on Friday that they did not observe any election fraud in Myanmar.
The military’s seizure of power prompted widespread peaceful protests that were quashed with lethal force, triggering armed resistance that some UN experts now class as civil war. More than 2,200 civilians have been killed and nearly 15,000 arrested, according to local NGOs.
Suu Kyi had already been sentenced to 17 years in prison on charges of illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies, violating COVID-19 restrictions, sedition, and five counts of corruption. All her trials have been held in closed courts.
Many top members of her party and government also have been jailed, while others are in hiding or have fled abroad.
Suu Kyi’s supporters and independent analysts say all the charges against her are politically motivated and an attempt to discredit her and legitimise the military’s seizure of power.
Ousted President Win Myint and the former minister of the president’s office Min Thu -- both co-defendants in the election fraud case -- each received sentences of three years. Lawyers will file appeals in the coming days.
In separate proceedings, Suu Kyi is also being tried for allegedly violating the Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years, and seven counts of corruption charges, which carry a maximum sentence of 15 years each.
In another trial on Friday, the former British ambassador to Myanmar and her husband were each sentenced to one year in prison.
Vicky Bowman, who served at the embassy between 2002 and 2006, and her Myanmar husband, a former political prisoner, were convicted for breaking immigration laws.
Bowman had been detained since last week for failing to provide her address, which was different from the one registered with military authorities.
Her husband -- artist Htein Lin -- was reportedly prosecuted for helping his wife reside at a different address. They had both faced up to five years in prison.
The UK Foreign said, “We will continue to support Ms Bowman and her family until their case is resolved.”