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Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi seen in court for the first time since coup

Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi seen in court for the first time since coup

FILE PHOTO: Aung San Suu Kyi appeared in court via video link on Mar 1, 2021. (Photo: AFP/ROSLAN RAHMAN)

YANGON: Ousted Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi faced court on Monday (Mar 1) via video link, being seen by her lawyer for the first time since a military coup one month ago triggered relentless and massive protests.

Aung San Suu Kyi's appearance came as demonstrators took to the streets again across the country in defiance of an escalation of force from the junta that on Sunday resulted in the deadliest day of unrest since the takeover.

At least 18 people died on Sunday as troops and police fired live bullets at demonstrators in cities across Myanmar, according to the United Nations, which cited its own credible information.

READ: Myanmar protesters march again after bloodiest post-coup unrest

READ: At least 18 dead, says UN human rights office, as Myanmar police crack down on protests for the second day

Aung San Suu Kyi, 75, appeared healthy during Monday's court appearance, lawyer Khin Maung Zaw, told AFP by telephone during a break in proceedings.

An additional charge from Myanmar's colonial-era penal code, which prohibits publishing information that may "cause fear or alarm", was filed against her during the hearing, Lawyer Min Min Soe said.

Aung San Suu Kyi had requested to see her legal team during the hearing via video link, the lawyer added.

Min Min Soe said the next hearing would be on Mar 15.

Aung San Suu Kyi was detained in Naypyidaw, the nation's capital, before dawn on the day of the coup, and had not been since in public since.

She has reportedly been kept under house arrest in Naypyidaw, an isolated city that the military built during a previous dictatorship.

The military has justified its takeover, ending a decade-long democratic experiment, by making unfounded allegations of widespread fraud in last November's national elections.

Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won the election in a landslide.

The generals have hit Aung San Suu Kyi with two charges the international community widely regards as frivolous - relating to importing walkie talkies and staging a campaign rally during the pandemic.

READ: Aung San Suu Kyi hit with second charge as Myanmar junta tightens grip

Monday's court proceedings were preliminary matters in the case, including with Khin Maung Zaw seeking to formally represent her.

UPRISING

Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to streets regularly over the past month to oppose the coup.

While the military has steadily increased the type of force used to try to contain the uprising, beginning with tear gas and water cannons, this weekend's violence saw the biggest escalation.

READ: At least 18 dead, says UN human rights office, as Myanmar police crack down on protests for the second day

One person was shot while crouching behind rubbish bins and other makeshift shields, and had to be dragged away by others, with the incident filmed by media.

AFP independently confirmed 10 deaths in Sunday's violence, although there were fears the toll could be much higher.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a reliable monitoring group, estimated that about 30 people had been killed by security forces since the coup on Feb 1.

On Monday, protests erupted again in multiple cities across the country, with demonstrators in Yangon using bamboo poles, sofas and tree branches to erect barricades across streets.

In one clash broadcast live on Facebook and verified by AFP, unarmed protesters fled after a volley of shots were fired.

It was not immediately clear if the security forces had fired live rounds or rubber bullets.

Hundreds of people were also arrested over the weekend with many in Yangon taken to Insein Prison, where Myanmar's leading democracy campaigners have served long jail terms under previous dictatorships.

More than 1,100 people have been arrested, charged, or sentenced since the coup, according to The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

One reporter was also shot with rubber bullets on the weekend while covering a protest in the central city of Pyay, their employer said.

Several journalists documenting Saturday's assaults by security forces were detained, including an Associated Press photographer in Yangon.

"We strongly condemn the escalating violence against protests in Myanmar and call on the military to immediately halt the use of force against peaceful protesters," Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the UN human rights office, said.

READ: US warns of 'additional actions' over Myanmar coup, violent crackdown

The United States has been one of the most outspoken critics of the junta, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken also reacted with horror after Sunday's violence.

"We condemn the Burmese security forces' abhorrent violence against the people of Burma & will continue to promote accountability for those responsible," Blinken tweeted, using the country's old name.

Source: AGENCIES/ga

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