Crime & Justice

Myanmar junta sentences Suu Kyi, Australian adviser to 3 years in prison

(Update 1: adds Australia’s reaction to Turnell’s sentence)

Bangkok/Sydney, Australia, Sep 29 (EFE).- A military court in Myanmar sentenced deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her economic adviser, Australian Sean Turnell to three years in prison Thursday for violating the Official Secrets Act, sources related to the process told EFE.

Suu Kyi, 77, detained in a Naypyidaw prison, now faces 23 years in prison after being found guilty of various charges filed after a Feb. 1, 2021 military coup, while she is still being tried behind closed doors for several cases of alleged corruption.

Turnell, an associate professor of economics at Macquarie University in Sydney, was working as an adviser to Suu Kyi when she was overthrown and arrested after the coup.

The expert, director since 2017 of the Institute for the Development of Myanmar, based in the capital Naypyidaw, was arrested five days after the military uprising that ended a decade of incipient democracy in the country.

The details of the crime committed by Suu Kyi and Turnell have not been specified by the military, although state television – under the control of junta – said last year that the economist had access to “secret financial state information” and had tried to flee the country.

In addition to Suu Kyi and Turnell, the court also sentenced former ministers Soe Win, Sett Aung and Kyaw Win to three years in prison for breaking the same law.

The Australian government rejected the ruling against Turnell and called for his “immediate release.”

“Professor Turnell was tried in a closed court. Australia’s Chargé d’Affaires and consular officials in Myanmar made every effort to attend the verdict but were denied access to the court,” Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said in a statement.

“The Australian government has consistently rejected the charges against Professor Turnell during the more than 19 months he had been unjustly detained by the Myanmar military regime. We will continue to take every opportunity to advocate strongly for Professor Turnell until he has returned to his family in Australia,” she added.

The military coup of February 2021 plunged the country into a deep political, social and economic crisis, and unleashed a spiral of violence with the formation of new civilian militias that have exacerbated the guerrilla war Myanmar has experienced for decades.

The army justifies the coup on alleged fraud during the November 2020 elections, the result of which was annulled and in which Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide victory, as it did in 2015, with the endorsement of international observers.

More than 2,300 people have died as a result of brutal repression by police and soldiers, who have even shot to kill peaceful and unarmed demonstrators, according to Myanmar nonprofit Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. EFE


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