According to their lawyers, ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and former president Win Myint pleaded not guilty of violating COVID-19 restrictions as the duo was formally charged.
Each was charged with two counts under the Disaster Management Act for failing to comply with pandemic restrictions during last year’s general election campaign.
Each issue carries a prison sentence of up to three years.
Suu Kyi’s National Union for Democracy party won the election last November by a landslide, but failed to complete her second five-year term when the military seized power on February 1.
Suu Kyi and prominent members of her government and party are imprisoned.
The military said it took action because it claimed widespread voter fraud.
The takeover met with massive popular resistance that continued despite deadly repressive measures by the security forces.
A special court in the capital city of Naypyitaw is also prosecuting Suu Kyi for illegally importing and using radios without a license, as well as encouraging her to spread false or provocative information that could disrupt public order.
Suu Kyi, Win Myint, and the former mayor of Naypyitaw, Myo Aung, pleaded not guilty to incitement late last month and are expected to be charged in connection with the radios next week.
The indictment allows the case to proceed to a second stage after the court hears the prosecution’s case and decides it was justified.
The defense can then present its case.
Supporters of Suu Kyi and independent analysts say the accusations are an attempt to discredit her and legitimize the military’s takeover of power.
Suu Kyi is also facing corruption charges in a separate case recently initiated, a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
He will soon be prosecuted for violating the Official Secrets Act, which has a maximum term of 14 years.
At Monday’s court session, the judge rejected 76-year-old Suu Kyi’s request to hold her hearings biweekly instead of weekly.
Suu Kyi said that this will reduce the pressure on her health as she appears in multiple scheduled court appearances.
Attorney Kyi Win said, “He is tired of weekly appointments. Lawyers are also tired. That’s why it is recommended to do it every two weeks. But the judge did not allow it.”