Australian academic pleads not guilty in trial with ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, official says | myanmar – Michmutters

Australian academic pleads not guilty in trial with ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, official says | myanmar

An Australian academic who is being tried with ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi on charges of violating the country’s official secrets law testified in court for the first time on Thursday, a legal official has said.

Sean Turnell, an economist at Sydney’s Macquarie University, had served as an adviser to Aung San Suu Kyi, who was arrested when her elected government was ousted by the army on 1 February 2021.

Turnell was arrested five days later and is being held in the main prison in Naypyidaw, the capital, as is Aung San Suu Kyi. Three of Aung San Suu Kyi’s former cabinet members are being tried with them in a special court at the prison.

A legal official familiar with Thursday’s proceedings said Turnell denied the allegations against him and pleaded not guilty. Further details of his testimony from him were not available because his lawyers from him have been barred from talking about the case.

All the trials involving Aung San Suu Kyi have been held under similar restrictions, with the proceedings closed to the media and the public.

The legal official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to release information, said Turnell and his co-defendants appeared to be in good health.

The exact details of the alleged offense in the case have not been made public, though Myanmar state television, citing government statements, said last year that Turnell had access to “secret state financial information” and had tried to flee the country.

Turnell is also being prosecuted under the immigration law, which carries a punishment of six months to five years’ imprisonment. Prosecutions under the immigration law are common for foreigners being held for other offences.

The judge added Thursday’s proceedings until next week, when Aung San Suu Kyi is to testify.

The case is one of many faced by Aung San Suu Kyi and is widely seen as an effort to discredit her to prevent her return to politics. The charges against her include corruption and election fraud. She has already been convicted of several minor offenses.

Last year’s military takeover sparked peaceful nationwide street protests that security forces quashed with lethal force, triggering armed resistance that some UN experts have characterized as civil war.

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