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Ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi braced for verdict in incitement trial

Ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi is braced to hear the verdict in her trial for incitement against the country’s military rulers, the first in a catalogue of cases that could see her jailed for the rest of her life.

The Nobel laureate has been detained since the generals ousted her democratically elected government on 1 February, and she is expected to find out about her sentence on Tuesday.

More than 1,200 people have been killed and over 10,000 arrested in a crackdown on dissent, according to a local monitoring group.

Aung San Suu Kyi faces three years in jail if found guilty of incitement against the military. The charge is one of several that analysts say are aimed at removing the high-profile figure from the political arena for good.

The court has been hearing testimony related to the charge of incitement, which is sometimes referred to as sedition. The offence is defined as spreading false or inflammatory information that could disturb public order.

But the junta’s plans for Aung San Suu Kyi remain unknown, they add, and authorities could also delay the verdict.

Journalists have been barred from proceedings in the special court in the military-built capital Naypyidaw and her lawyers are banned from speaking to the media.

Days after the coup, Aung San Suu Kyi was hit with obscure charges for possessing unlicensed walkie-talkies and for violating coronavirus restrictions during elections her National League for Democracy (NLD) won in 2020.

The junta has steadily added a slew of other indictments, including violating the official secrets act, corruption and electoral fraud.

Aung San Suu Kyi now appears most weekdays at the junta courtroom, with her legal team saying last month the hectic schedule was taking a toll on the 76-year-old’s health.

“I think it’s almost certain Suu Kyi will get a harsh sentence,” said David Mathieson, an analyst formerly based in Myanmar. “The question is what will her incarceration look like? Will she get average convict treatment in a crowded women’s cell block, or privilege in a VIP statehouse?”

Aung San Suu Kyi’s long spells of house arrest under a previous junta were spent at her family’s colonial-era mansion in Yangon, where she would appear before thousands gathered on the other side of her garden fence.

Min Aung Hlaing’s regime has confined her to an undisclosed location in the isolated capital, along with a small staff.

Her link to the outside world has been limited to brief pre-trial meetings with her lawyers, who have brought her news and relayed messages to her supporters.

The trials of other ranking members of Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD have wrapped up, with the junta doling out harsh sentences.

A former chief minister was sentenced to 75 years in jail earlier this month, while a close Aung San Suu Kyi aide was jailed for 20.

The generals could later reduce any sentence pronounced on the higher-profile Aung San Suu Kyi, said Mathieson, although he cautioned against expecting clemency from the junta and its leader.

“How much mercy does Min Aung Hlaing possess?”