Myanmar ex-adviser seeks acquittal – Taipei Times

Possible Canberra involvement:
Australian economist Sean Turnell is accused of violating colonial-era laws when he was accessing confidential financial information

An Australian economist detained by Myanmar’s military junta has pleaded not guilty to violating the country’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act, sources close to the case said yesterday.

Sean Turnel, who worked as an adviser to Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, was detained shortly after the coup that overthrew her government last February.

He faces up to 14 years in prison if convicted in a secret military court trial inaccessible to journalists.

Photo: EPA-EFE

Turnell “testified in court yesterday…he pleaded not guilty,” the source said, adding that the economist is in good health.

Since seizing power, Myanmar’s military junta has detained thousands of pro-democracy protesters, many in the face of accusations rights groups accuse them of being politically motivated. there is

State television said Turnell had access to “secret financial information of the state” and attempted to flee the country, but exact details of the suspect’s crimes have not been released.

In June, his trial was moved to a special court on the prison grounds in the capital Naypyidaw.

Detained civilian government officials, including Aung San Suu Kyi and Turner, appeared in weekly special court hearings in the military-built capital.

Aung San Suu Kyi faces a number of charges that could take her to more than 150 years in prison, but she appeared to be in good health at Thursday’s hearing, sources said.

Journalists are barred from proceedings in the junta’s courts, and defense attorneys are slapped with gag orders barring them from speaking to the media.

Turnell was in the middle of a telephone interview with the BBC when he was detained.

“I’ve just been in custody and probably just been charged with something. I don’t know what it is. Of course it could be anything,” Turnell told the station at the time.

Canberra has not joined other Western governments in imposing sanctions on Myanmar, but Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong said such a move was still “actively under consideration”.

Separately, Japanese parliamentarian Hiromichi Watanabe met with the leader of the military junta, state media reported.A few days later, a Japanese documentary filmmaker was arrested while covering domestic protests. .

Watanabe of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party was in Myanmar from Sunday until yesterday, his office said.

He did not comment on the purpose of the trip.

The Tokyo metropolitan government has called for the release of film director Toru Kubota, 26, who entered Myanmar on a tourist visa and was arrested on July 30 during protests in Yangon.

He has been charged with violating immigration laws and promoting dissent against the ruling party military.

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