Australian Professor Jailed for THREE Years in Myanmar, Along with Country’s Former Leader Aung San Suu Kyi, for Violating ‘Secrecy Laws’
- Jailed Australian Economist With Former Myanmar Leader Aung San Suu Kyi
- Sean Turnell was jailed for three years, weeks after Suu Kyi’s sentence.
- Both have been ordered to serve three years behind bars in Myanmar.
A Myanmar court has handed down three-year sentences to Australian economist Sean Turnell and the country’s former leader Aung San Suu Kyi for violating Myanmar’s official secrets law, a legal official says.
The couple was tried and sentenced under the secrecy law, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to release information about the case.
Three members of Suu Kyi’s previous cabinet were also found guilty, each receiving three-year sentences.
Sean Turnell (pictured with iconic political leader Aung San Suu Kyi) was arrested five days after the military takeover by security forces of Yangon, Myanmar last February.
Turnell, an associate professor of economics at Macquarie University in Sydney, served as an adviser to Suu Kyi, who was detained in the capital Naypyitaw when her elected government was overthrown by the military on February 1, 2021.
He has been detained for almost 20 months. He was arrested five days after the military takeover by security forces of a hotel in Yangon, the country’s largest city, while waiting for a car to take him to the city’s international airport.
He had returned to Myanmar from Australia to take up a new post as special adviser to Suu Kyi less than a month before he was arrested. As director of the Myanmar Development Institute, he had already lived in Naypyitaw for several years.
The day after the military takeover, he posted a message on Twitter saying: “Safe for now, but heartbroken at what all this means for the people of Myanmar. The bravest and most kind people I know. They deserve so much better.”
He was charged along with Suu Kyi and the three former cabinet ministers on the basis of documents seized from him. 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 attempted to flee the country.
Turnell and Suu Kyi denied the allegations when they testified in his defense at the August trial.
Turnell was also charged with violating immigration law, but it was not immediately clear what sentence he received for it.
Myanmar’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act makes it a crime to possess, collect, record, publish, or share state information that is “directly or indirectly useful to an enemy.” The charge carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.
All sessions of the trial, which took place in a specially designated room in the main Naypyitaw prison, were closed to the media and the public. Defense attorneys were prevented, by a gag order, from disclosing details of the proceeding.
The same restrictions have been applied to all of Suu Kyi’s trials.
The case that concluded Thursday is one of several facing Suu Kyi and is widely seen as an effort to discredit her and prevent her from returning to politics.
She had already been sentenced to 20 years in prison after being found guilty of illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies, violating coronavirus restrictions, sedition, electoral fraud and five counts of corruption. The cases are widely seen as fabricated to prevent Suu Kyi, 77, from returning to active politics.
Suu Kyi is still on trial on seven counts under the country’s anti-corruption law, with each count carrying up to 15 years in prison and a fine.