Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong has rejected a Myanmar court ruling allowing Australian economist Sean Turnell to be prosecuted for violating the country’s official privacy law.
- Court ruling applies to Sean Turnell, Aung San Suu Kyi and three other defendants
- Mr. Turnell was arrested after the Suu Kyi-elected government was overthrown by the military in February 2021
- Peaceful, nationwide protests began with military takeovers, but security forces repulsed those with deadly force.
The court ruled that prosecutors produced enough evidence against Mr. Turnell, ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and three other defendants to proceed with the trial.
Senator Wong issued a statement on Friday evening, calling for the immediate release of Mr.
“We will continue to advocate for the interests and welfare of Professor Turnell and will not stop until he is safely back with his family,” the statement said.
Mr. Turnell had served as an adviser to Ms. Suu Kyi, who was arrested on 1 February 2021 after the military toppled her elected government.
The military takeover triggered a peaceful nationwide protest, which was crushed with deadly force by security forces, triggering armed resistance that some UN experts now characterize as a civil war.
Mr Turnell was arrested in the largest city of Yangon, days after the military seized power.
He is being tried in the capital Naypyidaw, in which Suu Kyi and three former cabinet members have been charged in the same case.
Violating the country’s official secrets law can result in a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.
Colonial-era statute criminalizes the possession, collection, recording, publication or sharing of state information that is “useful directly, or indirectly, to an enemy”.
The exact details of Mr Turnell’s alleged crime and that of others have not been made public, although Myanmar state television has cited government statements as saying that the Australian academic had access to “secret state financial information” and that he had accessed the country. Tried to run away.
Mr. Turnell is also being tried under the country’s immigration law, which carries sentences ranging from six months to five years in prison.
Prosecutions are common under immigration law for foreigners for other crimes.
Entering the test phase II
A legal official familiar with Mr Turnell’s case said he and his co-defendants were formally indicted on Thursday, allowing their trial to continue.
He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
Under Myanmar law, after the prosecution has presented its case, a judge can order the trial to be terminated if it is found that it does not have merit.
If the judge finds the prosecution case credible, the trial continues to the second stage, where the defense presents its case and the verdict is delivered.
In the coming weeks, the defense will present its arguments, including a re-examination of prosecution witnesses, in court.
The legal officer said Mr Turnell, who has been lodged in a prison in Naypyidaw, appeared to be in good health.
Ms Suu Kyi is being tried on several charges, including corruption and election fraud.
The cases against him, filed at the behest of the military-established government, are widely seen as an attempt to defame him to prevent his return to politics.