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Court sentences Suu Kyi, Australian economist to three years

September 29, 2022

Suu Kyi, her adviser Sean Turnell, and three of her Cabinet members were charged under Myanmar's State Secret Act. Suu Kyi faces several other charges, and Turnell is also accused of violating immigration law.

Aung San Suu Kyi in a file photo from 2019.
The trial was closed to the media and publicImage: Ann Wang/REUTERS

A Myanmar court convicted former leader Aung San Suu Kyi in another criminal case and sentenced Australian economist Sean Turnell to three years in prison on Thursday.

"Mr Sean Turnell, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and another three were sentenced to three years imprisonment each under State Secret Act," a source told reporters. They have both denied the charges in their defense at the trial in August. 

Turnell was also charged with violating immigration law.

Three members of Suu Kyi's Cabinet were also found guilty and received sentences of three years each.

They were all charged on the basis of documents seized from Turnell. Suu Kyi and Turnell both pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against them. 

Turnell's arrest 

Turnell, an economist and Australian national, had served as an adviser to Suu Kyi. He had come back to Myanmar to take up a new position as a special consultant to Suu Kyi. Previously, he had served as director of the Myanmar Development Institute in Naypyitaw.

Australia called for Turnell's immediate release.

"The Australian government has consistently rejected the charges against Professor Turnell. (It) rejects today's court ruling ... and calls for his immediate release," Foreign Minister Penny Wong said in a statement.
The 76-year-old Turnell was in the middle of a phone interview with the BBC when he was detained after the 2021 coup.

"I've just been detained at the moment, and perhaps charged with something, I don't know what that would be, could be anything at all of course," he said at the time.

Sean Turnell in a file photo from 2005.
Turnell was arrested while waiting for a car to go to the airportImage: ABC/AP Photo/picture alliance

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in January had asked for Turnell's release in a meeting with the leader of the ruling military council. Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said he "would consider it positively."

Suu Kyi, 77, had already been sentenced to 20 years imprisonment after being convicted of illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies, violating coronavirus restrictions, sedition, election fraud and five corruption charges. She is still being tried on seven counts under the anti-corruption law.

All the cases against her are being seen as an effort to keep her away from active politics.

Myanmar's colonial-era official secrets act criminalizes the possession, collection, recording, publishing, or sharing of state information that is "directly or indirectly, useful to an enemy."

A war between military junta and people Myanmar: Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch

tg/sms  (AFP, Reuters, AP)