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Australia demands Myanmar detained economist's instant release

Australia demands Myanmar detained economists instant release

Sean Turnell & Aung San Suu Kyi

Sydney: Australian government on Sunday demanded an immediate release of Australian economist Sean Turnell, who has been under Myanmar's military junta detention for a year, Agence France-Presse reported.

In a statement, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that Turnell's detention is unjust, and Australia rejects the allegations against him. It demands Turnell's immediate release, he said. He added that consistent with basic standards of justice and transparency, the Australian government expects Turnell to have access to his lawyers. Also, Australian officials should be able to witness court proceedings, he added.

Turnell is an economics professor who had been working for Myanmar's revolutionary civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is also in detention under the state's military rule. Turnell is accused of violating Myanmar's Official Secrets Act and will sentence to 14 years in prison if found guilty. He and Suu Kyi were arrested in February last year after Suu Kyi won the 2020 elections, but the military took over the government, invalidating the polls.

During Turnell's prosecution in September, the Australian embassy was denied access to the court hearing. In a phone interview with BBC when he was detained, he said that he was arrested but didn't know what the charges were, that they "could be anything". Though everyone is being polite, he cannot move freely or do anything, he had told BBC then.

A group of NGOs, including Human Rights Watch and Refugee Council of Australia, sought the Australian government to impose targeted sanctions on Myanmar's military rule.

A local monitor group's data suggest that the military takeover had incited mass protests in Myanmar and ensued military crackdown. It had led to the death of 1,500 civilians and the arrest of 12,000.

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