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Myanmar court rules on sufficient evidence against Sean Turnell and Aung San Suu Kyi to continue trial

Australian Foreign Secretary Penny Wong has rejected the ruling of a Myanmar court allowing the continuation of a trial against Australian economist Sean Turnell on charges of violating the country’s official secrets law.

The court ruled that prosecutors had provided sufficient evidence against Mr Turnell, ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and three other defendants to continue the trial.

Senator Wong made a statement Friday night calling for the immediate release of Mr Turnell.

“We will continue to advocate for Professor Turnell’s best interests and well-being and will not stop until he is safely back with his family,” the statement said.

Mr Turnell was an adviser to Ms Suu Kyi, who was arrested when her elected government was overthrown by the military on February 1, 2021.

The takeover by the military sparked peaceful nationwide protests that cracked down security forces with deadly force, sparking armed resistance that some UN experts now characterize as civil war.

Turnell was arrested in Yangon, the largest city, a few days after the military took power.

He is on trial in the capital Naypyidaw, while Ms Suu Kyi and three former cabinet members are charged in the same case.

Sean Turnell (right) with his wife Ha Vu
Sean Turnell – pictured here with his wife Ha Vu – is being tried in Naypyitaw, along with Aung San Suu Kyi and three former cabinet members.Delivered

Violating the country’s official secrets law carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

The colonial statute criminalizes the possession, collection, capture, publication, or sharing of state information that is “directly or indirectly useful to an enemy.”

Exact details of Turnell’s and the others’ alleged violations have not been made public, although Myanmar state television has said, citing government statements, that the Australian academic had access to “secret state financial information” and had attempted to flee the country. .

Mr Turnell is also being prosecuted under the country’s immigration law, which carries a prison sentence of six months to five years.

Prosecutions under the Immigration Act are common for foreigners detained for other offences.

Trial enters second phase

A legal officer familiar with Mr Turnell’s case said he and his co-defendants were formally charged on Thursday, allowing their trial to continue.

He spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to release any information.

Under Myanmar law, a judge can order the termination of a trial after the prosecution has presented his case, if it is found to be unfounded.

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