Australian economist Sean Turnell. / The Irrawaddy
Australian economist Sean Turnell, who has been charged by Myanmar’s military regime with violating the country’s colonial era Official Secrets Act, said on Thursday at a court hearing that the documents found in his possession when he was arrested contained nothing confidential.
Turnell, a former key economic advisor to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, was detained shortly after last year’s coup which ousted the Suu Kyi-led National League for Democracy (NLD) government.
At the court hearing on Thursday at Naypyitaw Prison, the Australian professor said that the documents were his recommendations regarding Myanmar’s economy that he presented in his role as an economic adviser to the NLD government and are not secret, said a court source.
The exact details of Turnell’s alleged offense have not been made public, although junta-controlled television has said that he had access to “secret state financial information” and had tried to flee the country.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, her planning and finance ministers U Kyaw Win and U Soe Win and deputy planning and finance minister U Set Aung have also been charged along with Turnell in the case.
All five are being held at Naypyitaw Prison, and all were present at the court hearing on Thursday and are in good health, said the source.
Australia’s government has repeatedly called for Turnell’s release. Coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing also turned a deaf ear to Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen’s request to free the professor, made when he visited Myanmar in February this year.
If found guilty, Turnell faces a maximum of 14 years in prison. His co-accused Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is set to testify at the next court hearing on August 18.