A Myanmar court has agreed to change the location of the trial of an Australian economist and adviser to ousted Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi for violating the national official secrets law, lawyers said on Tuesday.
Sean Turnell was indicted along with Suu Kyi and three former cabinet ministers under the law in March, a month after the military overthrew Suu Kyi’s elected government and seized power.
The country’s Supreme Court ruling will move the trial from Yangon Myanmar’s largest city where Turnell was arrested to the capital, Naypyitaw, one of Suu Kyi’s attorneys, Kyi Win, said.
This will consolidate most of the court cases against Suu Kyi in one place. The cases, filed at the behest of the military-installed government, are widely seen as an effort to discredit Suu Kyi and prevent her from returning to politics.
Violation of the Official Secrets Act carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison. Colonial-era law criminalized the possession, collection, recording, publication or sharing of state information that is “directly or indirectly useful to an enemy.”
The exact details of Turnell’s alleged offense and those of the others were not made public, although state television, citing government statements, said the Australian academic had access to “information. secret state finances ”and had attempted to flee the country.
Turnell was held in Insein Prison in Yangon, known for decades for holding political prisoners.
Meanwhile, the trial of 76-year-old Suu Kyi and two colleagues continued Tuesday in a special court in Naypyitaw, a day after she had to cancel her participation due to illness. The court on Monday allowed her to return to her place of detention – which is being kept secret by authorities – after explaining that she suffered from cold symptoms and felt dizzy on her way to court.
Another of her attorneys, Khin Maung Zaw, said her condition visibly improved on Tuesday when she returned to court, although she informed her legal team that she still felt dizzy. His co-defendants on several counts, former president Win Myint and former mayor of Naypyitaw Myo Aung, were also present.
Suu Kyi is tried in Naypyitaw for sedition, defined as the dissemination of information likely to cause public concern or agitation, and sometimes qualified as incitement; two counts of non-compliance with restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic during the 2020 election campaign; illegally importing walkie-talkies for its bodyguards; and unlicensed use of radios.
Suu Kyi’s attorneys argued in court that the sedition case should not be continued, and her team and the prosecution presented arguments to the court on the matter on Tuesday, Khin Maung Zaw said.
Two prosecution witnesses did not appear to testify on the COVID-19 restrictions case and the testimony of a third was postponed, he said.
Khin Maung Zaw also told reporters that defense lawyers had Suu Kyi sign documents designating them to represent her in corruption cases filed in the central city of Mandalay.
The military seized power just before Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party began a second five-year term. He said he acted because last November’s election was marred by widespread fraud, a claim that is widely questioned. Protests against the military takeover continue, as well as growing armed resistance.
The Independent Gt