CNN

A Myanmar military court has sentenced ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her former adviser, Australian Sean Turnell, to three years in prison for violating the country’s official state secrets law, a source familiar with the court proceedings confirmed to CNN.

Australia immediately rejected the decision and demanded the release of Sydney’s Macquarie University economist Turnell, who served as a special economic adviser to Suu Kyi and her cabinet.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong said in a statement Thursday that the “Australian government has consistently denied the allegations against Australian Professor Sean Turnell over 19 months by Myanmar’s military regime.”

“We will continue to take every opportunity to advocate for (him) until he returns to his family in Australia.”

Turnell’s wife, Ha Woo, shared a moving statement on Facebook, calling for his deportation.

“Sean has been one of Myanmar’s biggest supporters for over 20 years and has worked tirelessly to strengthen Myanmar’s economy,” she wrote. “(He) has already served almost two-thirds of his sentence in a Myanmar prison. Please consider his contribution to Myanmar and deport him now.”

Thursday’s court decision was the latest in a series of trials involving 77-year-old Nobel laureate Suu Kyi, who has now been sentenced to a total of 23 years in prison.

In 2021, Suu Kyi was first accused of violating the Secrets Act. She has denied all the allegations against her and her supporters say the charges are politically motivated. Earlier this month, Suu Kyi was sentenced to three years of hard labor for election fraud.

Amnesty International Australia director Tim O’Connor said illegal detention and secret trials had become “routine” in Myanmar.

He said, “The proceedings are completely bogus. “Anyone who cannot be charged with a criminal offense recognized under international law should be released immediately.”

Since the military seized power in Myanmar early last year, freedoms and rights in the country have eroded, rights groups and observers say. According to non-governmental organizations, government executions have returned and the number of violent attacks documented by the military on schools has increased.

Thursday’s verdict follows the arrest last month of former UK ambassador to Myanmar Vicky Bowman, who served as the UK’s top diplomat in Myanmar between 2002 and 2006.

Along with her husband, Bowman was charged with immigration offenses and sent to Yangon’s notorious Insein Prison.

This week, a beauty queen from Myanmar who fled to Thailand narrowly escaped deportation to her homeland by speaking out against the junta. She is now in Canada where she plans to seek asylum.

And journalist Ma Het Het Khine, who works for the BBC’s international charity BBC Media Action, received an additional three years of hard labor on Tuesday after being arrested under the junta government in 2021 and charged with sedition.

Elaine Pearson, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said the most recent court ruling showed that Myanmar’s junta had “no doubts about its international status as an outsider.”

“Concerned governments should take this as a clear signal that they need to take concrete action against the junta if they are to change the human rights situation in the country,” she said in a statement.

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