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Australian adviser to Suu Kyi jailed in Myanmar

BBC News logo BBC News 9/29/2022
Sean Turnell (left) was convicted of security breaches along with Myanmar's former leader Aung San Suu Kyi (right) © SUPPLIED Sean Turnell (left) was convicted of security breaches along with Myanmar's former leader Aung San Suu Kyi (right)

An Australian professor and former economic adviser to ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been jailed for three years by Myanmar's military government.

Sean Turnell was detained in Yangon in February 2021, days after the junta arrested Ms Suu Kyi and overthrew her elected government in a coup.

He was charged along with Ms Suu Kyi for breaching the country's Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in jail.

Both were sentenced on Thursday.

Ms Suu Kyi was also sentenced to three years for breaching the same act - which both of them had pleaded not guilty to. The former leader had already been sentenced to more than two decades in prison on various counts.

Their trials operated in a closed military court, where consul officers and media were denied access.

There has been international pressure and significant foreign lobbying for Mr Turnell's release.

The Australian government had consistently called on the junta to release him, while earlier this year Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen also appealed for his freedom in a meeting with Myanmar's military leader General Min Aung Hlaing.

Australian officials and Mr Turnell have denied the allegations that he breached Myanmar's security laws.

Mr Turnell, an economist from Sydney, was an economic adviser to the elected civilian government led by Ms Suu Kyi prior to the coup.

Myanmar's military overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi's democratically elected government in February 2021 - sparking huge protests across the country and a widespread resistance movement.

It's estimated more than 15,600 people - including Ms Suu Kyi, other lawmakers, activists and journalists - have been arrested since the military seized power.

More than 12,000 people remain detained while at least 2,322 political prisoners have been killed by the regime says the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group.

Earlier this month, Britain's former ambassador to Myanmar Vicky Bowman and her husband were both jailed for a year for breaching immigration laws.

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