BANGKOK (AP) — Myanmar’s ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, appeared in court in person Monday for the first time since the military arrested her when it seized power on Feb. 1.
One of her lawyers, Min Min Soe, told The Associated Press by phone that Suu Kyi was able to meet with her defense team for about 30 minutes before the hearing began at a special court set up inside the city council building in Naypyitaw, the capital.
The lawyers also met with Win Myint, who was president of the government Suu Kyi led as state counselor and faces some of the same charges.
Suu Kyi’s only previous court appearances have been by video link and she had not been allowed to meet in person with any of her lawyers.
Monday’s hearing concerned several of the six charges Suu Kyi faces and was largely procedural.
There are two counts of violating the Natural Disaster Management Law for allegedly 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.
The military ousted Suu Kyi’s government after her party won a landslide victory in a general election last November 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.
The junta has accused Suu Kyi of corruption and presented on state television what it said was evidence that she took bribes, but has so far only said it intends to pursue charges for that offense. Her lawyers dismiss the allegations.
Several cases are also pending against other senior members of Suu Kyi’s party in addition to Win Myint.
According to Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which has been keeping a detailed tally of arrests and deaths since the coup, almost 4,300 people are in detention, including 95 who have already been sentenced.
Resistance to military rule is widespread. About 100 young people gathered Monday in a lightning protest in Yangon, the country’s biggest city, carrying banners and chanting pro-democracy slogans before hurriedly dispersing.