Conflicts & War

Suu Kyi, adviser stand trial in Myanmar over official secrets breach

Bangkok, Sep 23 (EFE).- Ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her former Australian economic adviser Sean Turnell appeared Thursday with three other defendants in a Naypyitaw court, at the beginning of the trial on the alleged violation of the Official Secrets act.

The defendants, which also include former Finance Ministers Kyaw Win and Soe Win, could face a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison for the most serious charge brought against Suu Kyi, who also faces numerous court cases filed after the Feb. 1 coup.

Turnell, who was director of the Myanmar Development Institute since 2017, was the first foreigner to be detained after the military coup and has been held in the Insein prison in Yangon since February.

Judge Ye Lwin told defendants at Thursday’s hearing the reasons for transferring the case to a court in Naypyitaw, which will now lead the process, from a court in Yangon, where the complaint was filed in early April, a lawyer in Suu Kyi’s team told EFE.

The magistrate also listened to requests of the defense lawyers to represent their clients, although one of the lawyers could not enter the capital due to Covid-19 restrictions and said in the next hearing they will begin to hear the defense and prosecution arguments.

Suu Kyi, who faces another trial in Naypyitaw for five diverse charges and also has five accusations of corruption, appeared virtually at the hearing, while the rest of the defendants – Turnell, Kyaw Win, Soe Win and former Deputy Minister Set Paing – appeared in person.

Suu Kyi’s lawyer told EFE that the other four defendants looked “fragile and tired”.

The same court also initiated a second process against the Australian, who before the military uprising was an economic advisor to the Suu Kyi government, for allegedly violating immigration laws.

In July, Turnell’s wife, Ha Vu, asked authorities for her release, citing health concerns.

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

The coup was followed by protests throughout the country and a movement of civil disobedience that managed to stop part of the administration and the private sector.

At least 1,120 people have died as a result of the brutal repression carried out by police and soldiers since the coup, who have shot to kill peaceful protesters, while holding almost 6,700 opponents in detention, according to data from the Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners.

The coup has also intensified the armed conflict in the country with the birth of new defense groups against the military junta. EFE


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