The trial of ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi will hear its first testimony in a junta court on Monday, more than four months after a military coup.
Near daily protests have rocked Myanmar since the coup removed her government in February, ending a 10-year experiment with democracy.
The mass uprising has been met with a brutal military crackdown that has killed more than 850 people, according to a local monitoring group.
The junta has brought a raft of charges against the Nobel laureate, from illegally accepting 11 kilograms of gold to breaking a colonial-era secrecy law.
On Monday, her defence team will cross-examine witnesses over charges she improperly imported walkie-talkies and flouted coronavirus restrictions during last year’s elections that her National League for Democracy won in a landslide.
Her lawyers – who have been allowed to meet with her just twice since she was placed under house arrest – have said they expect the trial to wrap up by 26 July. Hearings for the case will take place every Monday.
If convicted of all charges, Aung San Suu Kyi, 75, faces more than a decade in jail.
“We are hoping for the best but prepared for the worst,” Khin Maung Zaw, one of her lawyers, told AFP ahead of the hearing in the capital Naypyidaw.
A separate case is scheduled to start on 15 June, where she is charged with sedition alongside ousted president Win Myint and another senior member of the NLD.
Aung San Suu Kyi spent more than 15 years under house arrest during the previous junta’s rule before her 2010 release.
Her international stature diminished following a wave of military violence targeting Buddhist-majority Myanmar’s marginalised Muslim Rohingya community, but inside the country she remains widely revered domestically as a symbol of democracy.
On Thursday, she was hit with additional corruption charges of illegally accepting $600,000 in cash and around 11 kilograms of gold. Her lawyer Khin Maung Zaw dismissed the new charges – which could see Aung San Suu Kyi hit with another lengthy prison term – as “absurd”.
“There is an undeniable political background to keep her out of the scene of the country and to smear her prestige,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons to charge her – to keep her out of the scene.”
Myanmar has plunged into a human rights catastrophe since the coup, the UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Friday, adding that the military leadership was “singularly responsible” for the crisis.
Bachelet also slammed the sweeping arrests in the country of activists, journalists and opponents of the regime, citing credible sources saying at least 4,804 people remain in arbitrary detention.
Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing has justified his power grab by citing alleged electoral fraud in the November poll won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD.
The junta has previously said it would hold fresh elections within two years, but has also threatened to dissolve the NLD.