Court hearings around Official Secrets Act charge commence for Aung San Suu Kyi and Sean Turnell 

Court hearings for State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and her Australian economic advisor Sean Turnell for charges related to the Official Secrets Act began at a district court in Naypyitaw on Thursday, according to Suu Kyi’s legal defence team. 

Three of Suu Kyi’s Union cabinet members were also sued by the military council in Yangon’s eastern district court under Section 3 (1) (c) of the nearly 100-year-old Official Secrets Act in February, following the military coup that ousted her National League for Democracy government. 

The cabinet members include finance minister Kyaw Win, his successor Soe Win, and deputy minister Set Aung. 

Section 3 (1) (c) criminalises the possession, collection, recording, publishing, or sharing of state information that is “directly or indirectly useful to an enemy” and carries a penalty of up to 14 years in prison if the defendants are found guilty.

The junta’s Supreme Court took over the cases in late May and ruled on September 14 that the Dekkhina District Court in Naypyitaw would preside over the hearings. 

While Suu Kyi attended the 30-minute hearing via video link, the four other defendants appeared in person wearing full PPE suits, the head of Suu Kyi’s defence team, Khin Maung Zaw, said. 

Lawyers representing three of the accused—but not ex-finance minister Kyaw Win—were also present at the hearing, which was overseen by Dekkhina District judge Ye Lwin, Khin Maung Zaw added. 

“All [of the lawyers] asked for permission to have attorney-client meetings to discuss the case. The judge adjourned, and next time will hear arguments from both sides,” he explained. 

During Thursday’s court hearing, a case brought against Sean Turnell under the Immigration Act was also heard, according to Khin Maung Zaw. Further details of the charge are still unknown as his lawyers only filed for power of attorney on Thursday.

Prior to the hearing, Turnell and the three cabinet members had been held at Insein Prison in Yangon; their lawyers believed they were transferred to a Napyitaw detention center just before Thursday’s court session. 

“I believe they came from the detention center. We didn’t have a chance to ask them privately,” Khin Maung Zaw said. 

Myanmar Now has been unable to contact the lawyers defending Sean Turnell, Kyaw Win, Soe Win and Set Aung.

Khin Maung Zaw said the four defendants appeared to be “frail and tired.” Before the hearing, they were not allowed to meet with their lawyers or family members, he added.

The next hearing for the case is scheduled for September 30, at which time the judge will also hear arguments regarding whether Sean Turnell will be allowed to have a translator during the hearings.

The charge of violating the Official Secrets Act is one of the 11 offences the junta has brought against Suu Kyi. 

Five of the charges are being heard in a special court opened specifically for her trial every Monday and Tuesday and four are scheduled to be held biweekly on Fridays.

Details have yet to be revealed concerning the remaining charge against the State Counsellor, which was filed at the Yangon Region High Court.

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