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Aung San Suu Kyi's Myanmar trials end with 7 more years in jail

(Reuters) -Deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi was convicted of five counts of corruption on Friday and jailed for seven more years, an informed source said, wrapping up a marathon of trials condemned internationally as a sham.

In a closed-door court session in army-ruled Myanmar, Suu Kyi, 77, who was arrested during a coup in February 2021, was found guilty of offences relating to her lease and use of a helicopter while she was the country's de facto leader, said the source, who has knowledge of her trials.

The jail term adds to 26 years of prison time already handed down to Suu Kyi, for offences ranging from incitement, breaches of COVID-19 restrictions and illegally owning radio equipment, to violating a state secrets law, multiple counts of corruption and trying to influence election officials. She has dismissed those as "absurd".

The source, who asked not to be identified due to the junta's sensitivity about the trials, said Suu Kyi "is in good health".

A Nobel Peace Prize winner for her decades-long campaign for democracy in Myanmar, the popular, Oxford-educated Suu Kyi has spent much of her political life detained under military governments.

She led Myanmar for five years from 2015 during a decade of tentative democracy that came after the military ended its 49-year rule, only for it to wrest back control early last year to stop her government from starting a second term, accusing it of ignoring irregularities in an election her party won.

Western countries and Suu Kyi's allies say the trials are designed to keep the junta's biggest threat at bay amid widespread domestic resistance to its rule.

Human rights groups condemned Friday's ruling and said its timing, just over a week after a U.N. Security Council resolution on the Myanmar crisis called for Suu Kyi's release, demonstrated the need for tougher sanctions and international measures against the generals.

"The trumped-up cases against Aung San Suu Kyi have been politically motivated, unfair, and completely lacking in anything resembling transparency. The same goes for the charges against the thousands of others languishing behind bars," said Amnesty International's regional director, Meg de Ronde.

"More pressure on the Myanmar military is needed and fast."

A spokesperson for the junta could not immediately be reached for comment.

The military has insisted her trials are legitimate and that Suu Kyi, who has been held in the annex of a jail in the capital Naypyitaw, has received due process by an independent court.

'TOTALLY UNJUST'

Human Rights Watch said the junta was hoping to keep a high-profile issue under the international radar with a verdict close to New Year that was effectively a life sentence for Suu Kyi given her age.

"The Myanmar junta's farcical, totally unjust parade of charges and convictions against Aung San Suu Kyi amount to politically motivated punishment designed to hold her behind bars for the rest of her life," its deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said.

It was unclear where she will serve her sentences now that the trials have concluded.

Kyaw Zaw, a spokesperson for Myanmar's shadow National Unity Government, an alliance of anti-junta groups, said "kangaroo courts" were making decisions without evidence and based on lies.

Matthew Smith, co-founder & CEO of Fortify Rights, said the sentences were aimed at keeping Suu Kyi out of the political picture when the military holds elections on its terms.

"With (Suu Kyi) in prison, the junta will attempt to hold sham elections next year, and it'll be desperate for U.N. member states to respect the results. None should."

(Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor and Alison Williams)