Australian economist stands trial in Myanmar

A military-ruled court in Myanmar will hear the case against an Australian economist and adviser to ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi for violating a state secrets law, a source familiar with the case said.

Sean Turnell has been in detention since February 6 of last year, just days after a coup against the elected government of Suu Kyi, and faces up to 14 years in prison if found guilty.

He is to stand trial alongside Suu Kyi, 76, and several members of his economic team indicted for the same offence.

“Sean was charged yesterday under the Official Secrets Act,” said the source, who declined to be named because the trial is being held behind closed doors with restricted information.

“The charge relates to the allegation that he had government documents.”

A military spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said in a statement that Canberra had rejected the court’s decision.

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

Turnell, an economics professor at Sydney’s Macquarie University, was for several years an adviser to Nobel laureate Suu Kyi, accused of at least 20 corruption-related crimes.

They are among the thousands imprisoned under the junta, including politicians, lawmakers, bureaucrats, students and journalists.

Courts have dealt harshly with opponents of the military, handing down prison terms and even the death penalty after what human rights groups say were unfair trials.

The junta insists that Myanmar’s courts are independent and that detainees are receiving due process.

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