Myanmar’s junta sentenced ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi to another three years in prison while also giving an Australian former government adviser the same term, a source told AFP on Thursday.
Both have been detained since a coup in February last year when the military ousted Suu Kyi’s government, for which Sean Turnell, an economist, was an adviser.
“Mr Sean Turnell, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and another three were sentenced to three years imprisonment each under the Official Secrets Act,” the source told AFP, adding that Suu Kyi would appeal her verdict.
Suu Kyi has already been convicted of corruption and a clutch of other charges by a closed court, while Turnell is facing another case under the country’s immigration act, which according to the source is ongoing.
Turnell’s arrest last year prompted international outrage, with Australian diplomats lobbying Myanmar’s regional neighbors to assist with the case.
The 76-year-old was in the middle of a phone interview with the BBC when he was detained after the 2021 coup.
“I’ve just been detained at the moment, and perhaps charged with something, I don’t know what that would be, could be anything at all of course,” Turnell told the broadcaster at the time.
In August, he pleaded not guilty to breaching the colonial-era official secrets act during his trial in a secretive junta court — inaccessible to journalists — in the capital Naypyidaw.
He was facing a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.
The exact details of Turnell’s alleged offense have not been made public, though state television has said he had access to “secret state financial information” and had tried to flee the country.
According to Amnesty International’s Australia Impact Director Tim O’Connor, Turnell was denied a fair trial and adequate access to legal counsel or consular assistance.
“The proceedings have been an outright sham and Myanmar’s military must immediately release Turnell so he can return to his family in Australia,” he said.
Turnell’s friend and fellow economist Tim Harcourt expressed disappointment over the verdict.
“I do hope that like Danny Fenster, he’ll be deported in the coming days,” he told AFP referring to an American journalist who received an 11-year prison sentence and was pardoned and deported last year.
His message to Turnell was “stay strong”, and said he was in the thoughts of all of his friends and family.
All Turnell did was “try and give economic advice to improve the lives of ordinary Burmese people,” he said.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military seized power last year and ousted Suu Kyi’s elected government.
More than 2,200 people have been killed and 15,000 arrested in the military’s crackdown on dissent since it seized power, according to a local monitoring group.