Myanmar’s junta has sentenced ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi to another three years in prison while also handing a former Australian government adviser the same sentence, a source told AFP on Thursday.
Both have been imprisoned since a coup in February last year when the military toppled the Suu Kyi government, for which Sean Turnell, an economist, was an adviser.
“Mr. Sean Turnell, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and three others have each been sentenced to three years imprisonment under the Official Secrets Act,” the source told AFP, adding that Suu Kyi will appeal her sentence.
Suu Kyi has already been convicted of corruption and a host of other charges by a closed court, while Turnell faces another trial under the country’s immigration law, which the source says is ongoing.
Turnell’s arrest last year sparked international outrage, with Australian diplomats lobbying Myanmar’s regional neighbors to support the case.
The 76-year-old was in the middle of a telephone interview with the BBC when he was arrested following the 2021 coup.
“I’m in jail right now and maybe charged with something, I don’t know what that would be, of course it could be anything,” Turnell told the broadcaster at the time.
In August he pleaded not guilty to violating the colonial-era official secrets law during his trial in a closed junta court in the capital, Naypyidaw.
He faced a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.
The exact details of Turnell’s alleged offense were not released, although state television said he had access to “secret government financial information” and was attempting to flee the country.
– ‘Stand firm’ –
According to Tim O’Connor, Amnesty International’s director of impact on Australia, Turnell was denied a fair trial and adequate access to legal or consular assistance.
“The trial was a sham and the Myanmar military must release Turnell immediately so he can return to his family in Australia,” he said.
Turnell’s friend and business colleague Tim Harcourt expressed his disappointment at the verdict.
“I hope that he will be deported like Danny Fenster in the coming days,” he told AFP, referring to an American journalist who was sentenced to 11 years in prison and pardoned and deported last year.
His message to Turnell was “stay strong” and said his thoughts are with all his friends and family.
All Turnell was “trying to provide economic advice to improve the lives of ordinary Burmese people,” he said.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military took power last year and toppled Suu Kyi’s elected government.
According to a local monitoring group, more than 2,200 people have been killed and 15,000 arrested since the military took power.