Ruling for Australian NLD Economics Advisor Expected Next Month

By The Irrawaddy 9 September 2022

A junta court inside Naypyitaw Prison on Thursday heard the last testimony in the case against the ousted National League for Democracy government’s economic advisor Sean Turnell under Myanmar’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act.

State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, planning and finance ministers U Kyaw Win and U Soe Win and U Set Aung, their deputy minister in the ousted NLD government, are co-defendants in the case.

During the testimony, U Set Aung denied guilt, saying documents the junta alleged were confidential were declassified.

Both sides will reportedly present their closing arguments on September 22 and a ruling can be expected in early October.

The regime alleged confidential documents were found in Turnell’s possession when he was detained shortly after the military coup on February 1 last year.

Turnell pleaded not guilty, saying the documents were his economic recommendations that he presented as an economics adviser to the NLD government and were not confidential, said a court source.

Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing was asked last month by the United Nations special envoy Noeleen Heyzer to release Turnell. He said if the Australian government had acted more positively, Turnell’s case would not have become so serious.

The regime has been angered by Canberra’s replacement of its ambassador with a lower-ranked representative in a downgrading of diplomatic ties intended to avoid legitimizing the junta.

All five were in court on Thursday and seemed in good health, according to court sources.

The regime has already given 77-year-old Daw Aung San Suu Kyi 22 years in prison under five charges but later reduced her jail term to 20 years.

She still faces seven other charges, including two charges of corruption for allegedly accepting a bribe of US$550,000 from businessman Maung Weik for her charity, the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, and five charges of corruption over her rental and purchase of a helicopter to oversee the management of natural disasters and state affairs.

In May, the Yangon Western District Court resurrected a long-dormant case against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, upholding a 2002 ruling over an argument with her cousin who punched her. The Yangon Region High Court rejected her appeal and her lawyers will appeal to the Supreme Court.