(Bloomberg) -- Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to three more years in prison on Thursday, after she was found guilty of violating the Official Secrets Act, according to a person familiar with the matter.
A military-controlled court in the capital Naypidaw ruled the 77-year-old Nobel peace prize laureate broke the colonial-era law, which criminalizes the possession or sharing of state information which is “directly or indirectly useful to an enemy,” said the person who asked not to be named as he is not authorized to speak to the media.
Suu Kyi’s former economic adviser Australian Sean Turnell was also sentenced to three years in prison. It’s not clear whether the military government will jail Turnell or immediately deport him. Three former cabinet ministers at the Ministry of Planning and Finance were also convicted of violating the secrets act and sentenced to three years in prison each.
All the accused had pleaded not guilty, the person said, adding they plan to appeal the verdict.
Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong rejected the ruling and demanded Turnell’s “immediate release” in a statement. She said consular officials had “made every effort to attend the verdict” but had been denied access.
“It’s heartbreaking for me, our daughter, Sean’s 85-year-old father, and the rest of our family,” Turnell’s wife, Ha Vu, said in a Facebook post, as she called on the junta to “deport him now.”
Turnell is not the first foreigner to have been convicted by the regime since the 2021 coup. Last year, American journalist Danny Fenster was sentenced to 11 years in prison after he was found guilty of three charges including inciting dissent against the military, but was released and deported a few days later. Earlier this month, the junta handed a one-year prison sentence to former British ambassador Vicky Bowman and her husband for violating the country’s immigration rules.
The latest sentencing marks the sixth round of criminal verdicts against Suu Kyi since the military staged a coup that overthrew the civilian government in 2021. It takes her total jail term to 23 years. She’s awaiting verdicts in seven more corruption charges expected later this year.
Suu Kyi’s Denials
Suu Kyi was previously found guilty of charges including illegally importing and possessing unlicensed walkie-talkies, breaking Covid rules and alleged election fraud in the 2020 general elections. She has called the allegations “absurd,” while her supporters say the charges are “politically motivated”.
Major General Zaw Min Tun, lead spokesman for the ruling State Administration Council, didn’t immediately answer multiple calls seeking comment.
The Southeast Asian country has been grappling with soaring inflation and shrinking foreign-currency reserves amid international sanctions following the military coup. The World Bank recently said Myanmar’s economy remains weak due to high inflation and worsening external pressures amid “elevated levels of conflicts.”
Since the coup, more than 2,300 civilians have been killed and around 15,700 others arrested in a military crackdown on the pro-democracy movement. The junta has sealed off at least 760 buildings owned by anti-coup activists and supporters, according to rights group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
(Updates with reaction to Turnell sentencing.)
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