A court in military-ruled Myanmar on Thursday convicted former leader Aung San Suu Kyi in another criminal case and sentenced Australian economist Sean Turnell to three years in prison, a legal official said.
Suu Kyi received a three-year sentence after being tried and convicted with Turnell under secret law, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to release information about the case. Huh. Three members of his cabinet were also found guilty, each receiving a three-year sentence.
An associate professor in economics at Sydney’s Macquarie University, Turnell served as an advisor to Suu Kyi, who was detained in the capital, Naipitaw, when her elected government was overthrown by the military on February 1, 2021. was. He has been in custody. about 20 months. He was arrested five days after a military takeover by security forces at a hotel in the country’s largest city, Yangon, while waiting for a car to be taken to the city’s international airport.
Less than a month before he was taken into custody, he had returned from Australia to Myanmar to take up a new position as special adviser to Suu Kyi. As director of the Myanmar Development Institute, he had already lived in Naypyitaw for several years. A day after the military takeover, he posted a message on Twitter that he was: “Safe for now but heartbroken for what this means for the people of Myanmar. The bravest, kindest people I know . They deserve so much better.”
They were charged, along with Suu Kyi and three former cabinet ministers, based on documents seized from them. The exact details of his crime have not been made public, although state television said last year that Turnell had access to “secret state financial information” and had tried to flee the country.
Turnell and Suu Kyi denied the allegations when they testified in their defense at trial in August. Turnell was also charged with violating immigration law, but it was not immediately clear what punishment he received for it.
Myanmar’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act criminalizes the possession, collection, recording, publication or sharing of state information that is “useful, directly or indirectly, to an enemy.” The charge carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.
All sessions of the trial, held in a purpose-built courtroom in Napitaw’s main prison, were closed to the media and the public. Defense lawyers were barred from disclosing the details of the proceedings. The same restrictions apply to all of Suu Kyi’s tests. The case that ended Thursday is one of several faced by Suu Kyi and is widely seen as an attempt to defame her to prevent her return to politics.
He had already been sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to a violation, illegally importing and possessing a walkie-talkie. coronavirus Sanctions, rebellion, five charges of election fraud and corruption. The cases are widely believed to be concocted to prevent 77-year-old Suu Kyi from returning to active politics. Suu Kyi is still being tried on seven counts under the country’s anti-corruption law, which could each face up to 15 years in prison and a fine. Defense lawyers are expected to file appeals in the coming days in the secret case for Turnell, Suu Kyi and three former ministers: Sow Win and Kyaw Win, both former ministers of planning and finance, and Set Aung, a former deputy minister of the ministry, said the legal officer.
About half a dozen foreigners have been arrested on political charges since the military takeover, and have generally been deported after their convictions. Australia has repeatedly called for Ternell’s release. Last year, it suspended its defense cooperation with Myanmar and began redirecting humanitarian aid due to military takeovers and Ternell’s ongoing detention.
Tim Harcourt, a longtime friend of Turnell’s, said he still hoped his fellow economist would be released soon. “He is a great economist, a good man and a great human being. His main reason in life is to reduce poverty around the world and he has developed special expertise in Myanmar,” Harcourt, an academic from Sydney, told the AP. Regrettably, he was taken into custody on false charges. Hopefully common sense and justice prevail and Sean can soon return to his wife and family in Australia.
It was not immediately clear whether Turnell’s 20 months already spent in detention would be deducted from his sentence.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, when he visited Myanmar in January this year, called for Ternell’s release in a meeting with the leader of the ruling Military Council. Senior General Min Aung Huling replied that he would “look positively at it.”
The UN’s special envoy on Myanmar Nolen Heiser said she had made a special request to Australia for Ternell’s release during a meeting with Min Aung Hling in August. Myanmar’s government said the general responded that, should the Australian government take affirmative action, “we will not need to take strong action.”
According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a rights watchdog organization, 15,683 people have been detained on political charges since the military takeover in Myanmar, 12,540 of them. The group says at least 2,324 civilians have been killed by security forces in the same period, although the number is believed to be much higher. Myanmar has been in turmoil since the takeover, which led to nationwide protests that the military government used to trigger armed resistance with lethal force, which some UN experts now characterize as a civil war.