Myanmar convicts Aung San Suu Kyi and an Australian economist to 3 years in prison

Suu Kyi received a three-year sentence after being tried and convicted with Sean Turnell, under the country's official secrets law

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Thursday, September 29, 2022, 01:17 PM IST
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Myanmar's former leader Aung San Suu Kyi waits to address judges of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, on December 11, 2019 | AP

A court in military-ruled Myanmar sentenced ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi to a three year sentence in yet another criminal case, and also sentenced Sean Turnell, an Australian economist, accused of violating the country's official secrets act, to three years in prison.

Suu Kyi received a three-year sentence after being tried and convicted with Turnell under the official secrets law, said a legal official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to release information about the case.

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.”

The charge carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

Three members of her Cabinet were also found guilty, each receiving sentences of three years.

Turnell, an associate professor in economics at Sydney’s Macquarie University, had served as an adviser to Suu Kyi, who was detained in the capital Naypyitaw when her elected government was ousted by the army on February 1, 2021.

He has been in detention for almost 20 months. He was arrested five days after the military takeover by security forces at a hotel in Yangon, the country’s biggest city, while waiting for a car to take him to the city’s international airport.

Australia's government on Thursday rejected a Myanmar court's sentencing of economist Sean Turnell to three years in jail and demanded his "immediate release".

Foreign Minister Penny Wong criticised the ruling against Turnell, an Australian citizen, saying he was tried in a closed court with no consular access.

Australia will "advocate strongly" for Turnell until he is returned to his family, Wong said, after the academic was imprisoned under the Official Secrets Act.

A coup d'état in Myanmar began on the morning of 1 February 2021, when democratically elected members of the country's ruling party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), were deposed by the Tatmadaw—Myanmar's military—which then vested power in a military junta.

The coup d'état occurred the day before the Parliament of Myanmar was due to swear in the members elected at the 2020 election, thereby preventing this from occurring. President Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi were detained, along with ministers, their deputies, and members of Parliament.

Suu Kyi was charged with breaching emergency COVID-19 laws and for illegally importing and using radio and communication devices, specifically six ICOM devices from her security team and a walkie-talkie, which are restricted in Myanmar and need clearance from military-related agencies before acquisition.

Suu Kyi received an additional criminal charge for violating the National Disaster Act on February 16, 2021, two additional charges for violating communications laws and an intent to incite public unrest on March 1, 2021 and another for violating the official secrets act on April 1, 2021.

Later, on January 10 this year, she was sentenced to an additional four years on another set of charges, and on April 27, she was sentenced to five years in prison on corruption charges. Her overall sentence has increased to a total of 20 years in prison.

The United Nations, most European countries, and the United States condemned the arrests, trials, and sentences as politically motivated.

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