Australia demands the immediate release of academic Sean Turnell, who was charged with violating state secrets and tried alongside Aung San Suu Kyi. Furthermore, former Myanmar Prime Minster Aung San Suu Kyi has been sentenced to prison for breaching state secrets as well.
A secretive military court has declared Myanmar’s elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi guilty of violating the country’s official secrets legislation, the latest in a series of convictions filed by the generals who deposed her in a coup last year.
Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to three years in prison on Thursday, according to an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to divulge information about the case.
Sean Turnell, her economic consultant, was also found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison, according to the official.
Turnell, a professor at Sydney’s Macquarie University, was imprisoned five days after the February 2021 coup. The Australian embassy was not permitted to attend his trial, and he was denied the use of a translator.
Subscribe to GreatGameIndia
“Three years each, no hard labour,” a source acquainted with the situation told Reuters.
Australia condemned the court verdict and demanded Turnell’s immediate release.
“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,” Foreign Minister Penny Wong said in a statement.
“We will continue to take every opportunity to advocate strongly for Professor Turnell until he has returned to his family in Australia.”
Although state television reported last year that Turnell seemed to be privy to “secret state financial information” and had attempted to leave the country, the specifics of their alleged offenses have not been publicly disclosed. Her economic team’s other members were also implicated in the case.
‘He has done nothing wrong’
When they gave testimony in August, Turnell and the 77-year-old Aung San Suu Kyi both refuted the accusations in the case.
Australia should do more to support Turnell, said the Australian Human Rights Institute at UNSW, which also denounced the ruling.
According to Melissa Crouch, an associate at the institute and professor at UNSW, “from the beginning, it was clear that the military arrested Sean simply because of his close association with Aung San Suu Kyi, who is also in jail.”
“The Myanmar military has failed to provide evidence to substantiate the charges brought against Sean for illegally possessing state secrets. He has done nothing wrong and deserves to be brought home quickly.
“The Australian government must put more resources into securing his swift release.”
Aung San Suu Kyi has previously received a 20-year prison term in other cases that are thought to be intended to prevent her from ever regaining power in a nation where she is still incredibly well-liked.
According to Tony Cheng of Al Jazeera, who is stationed in Bangkok but regularly reports from Myanmar, “what we can see with all these charges being brought against her and all the sentences imposed – we think now at 23 years including hard labour – that is really a life sentence now for Aung San Suu Kyi.”
The same as in her prior trials, no sessions were open to the public or media, and a gag order prohibited the defense team’s attorneys from discussing specifics of the proceedings.
Since overthrowing the elected government, the military has brutally suppressed any challenge to its control, yet significant resistance still exists.
In its campaign on critics, more than 2,400 individuals have been killed and more than 12,500 people are still in detention.
Four political detainees were put to death by the generals in July, shocking many people around the globe.