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Myanmar Supreme Allows Secret Trial of Australian Economist

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Myanmar Supreme Allows Secret Trial of Australian Economist

Myanmar’s supreme court has agreed to change the venue for the trial of an Australian economist who was an adviser ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi.  He is charged with violating the nation’s official secrets law.

Lawyers said yesterday Australian National Mr Sean Turnell was Charged along with Suu Kyi and three former Cabinet ministers in March. The charges come one month after the military seized power from Suu Kyi’s elected government.

Suu Kyi’s lawyers said the decision by Myanmar’s Supreme Court will move Turnell’s trial from Yangon in Myanmar’s biggest city where he was arrested, to the capital in Naypyitaw.

Attorney Kyi Win told the Associated Press that the move will consolidate the legal cases against Suu Kyi in a single location. The cases are widely seen as an effort to discredit Aung San Suu Kyi and her former cabinet ministers from returning to politics.

Alleged official secrets law offenses

Violating Myanmar’s official secrets law carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison. The post colonial-era statute makes it illegal to be in the possession, collection, recording or sharing of government information. Government information that is “directly or indirectly, useful to an enemy.”

The exact details of Mr Turnell’s alleged official secrets law offenses have also not yet been made public. Myanmar’s state television, citing government statements, has said that Mr Turnell had access to “secret state financial information” and was arrested trying flee Myanmar.

Since his arrest Mr Turnell has been confined in Yangon’s Insein Prison, known for holding the Military’s political prisoners.

Trumped up charges by Myanmar’s Military

Meanwhile, the trial of Suu Kyi, 76, and two cabinet ministers continues. On Monday the special court in Naypyitaw, had to cancel a court session because Ms Suu Kyi complained of an illness. The court allowed her to return to her secret place of detention after she said that she was suffering from cold like symptoms and that she felt dizzy on the ride to the court.

One of her attorney’s, Khin Maung Zaw, said her condition had visibly improved, though she said that she still felt some dizziness.

Suu Kyi is being tried in capitol of Naypyitaw on charges of sedition. She is accused by the Military of spreading information that could cause public alarm or unrest, and or incitement. She is also charged on two counts of flouting COVID-19 pandemic restrictions during the 2020 election campaign; illegally importing two way radios for her security team to use; also unlicensed use of the two way radios.

Suu Kyi’s lawyers have argued in the Naypyitaw court that the sedition case should not be prosecuted. Suu Kyi’s legal team and the prosecution presented arguments to the court on that matter on Tuesday, attorney Khin Maung Zaw said.

Alleged corruption cases

Furthermore two of the military prosecution witnesses failed to show to testify about over the Covid-19 restrictions case and the testimony of a third case was postponed, her attorney said.

Attorney Khin Maung Zaw also told reporters that the defense lawyers had Ms Suu Kyi sign documents appointing them to represent her in her alleged corruption cases filed in the Myanmar city of Mandalay.

Myanmar’s military seized power just before Aung San Suu Kyi and her elected government were about to begin a second five-year term. Myanmar’s General Min Aung Hlaing said he acted because election in November  was allegedly marred by widespread fraud. The assertion by General Min is widely disputed by most world leader including the United Nations. Anti-military Protests over February coup are continuing, along with growing armed resistance thought out Myanmar.

The Associated Press

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