Jailed Australian economist, Sean Turnell, pleads not guilty in Myanmar trial

  • Sean Turnell, an Australian academic and economic adviser to Myanmar’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, detained after the military seized power last year, has testified in a military c …
  • Aung San Suu Kyi is being tried with Turnell, an economist at Macquarie University in Sydney, on suspicion of violating the nation’s official secrets legislation.
  • Turnell and Aung San Suu Kyi are now being imprisoned in Naypyidaw, the country’s capital.

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar – Sean Turnell, an Australian academic and economic adviser to Myanmar’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, detained after the military seized power last year, has testified in a military court for the first time.

Aung San Suu Kyi is being tried with Turnell, an economist at Macquarie University in Sydney, on suspicion of violating the nation’s official secrets legislation.

Turnell and Aung San Suu Kyi are now being imprisoned in Naypyidaw, the country’s capital. In a courtroom with closed doors put up inside the prison, they are being tried alongside three of the former Cabinet members.

According to a legal expert familiar with Thursday’s proceedings, Turnell pleaded not guilty and disputed the charges against him. Because his lawyers are not allowed to discuss the matter, more information was unavailable.

The legal representative claimed Turnell and his co-defendants appeared to be in good health but only talked on the condition of anonymity since he was not authorized to disclose details.

Although Myanmar state television reported last year that Turnell had access to “secret state financial information” and had attempted to leave the country, the specifics of the accused in the case had not been made public.

In addition, Turnell is being tried under Myanmar’s immigration legislation, which carries a sentence of up to five years in jail.

In June, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong stated that the release of Turnell was a “priority” for the administration and that further sanctions against Myanmar were being considered.

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