Sean Turnell prohibited from meeting privately with lawyer 

After more than eight months in junta detention, economic advisor to detained State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi Sean Turnell is still unable to meet privately with his lawyer, Myanmar Now has learned. 

Turnell, an Australian national, was arrested by the military council on February 6, just five days after Myanmar’s military coup which ousted the elected National League for Democracy government. Charges were brought against him for violating the colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which carries a 14-year prison sentence if convicted. 

Judge Ye Lwin of the Dekkhina District Court in Naypyitaw is presiding over the case. The most recent hearing, on Thursday, lasted only 30 minutes, according to Turnell’s lawyer, Ye Lin Aung. 

“I still haven’t been able to hold a private discussion with my client regarding the case,” he told Myanmar Now. 

Ye Lin Aung said that at the hearing, he submitted a request to the judge to allow him to meet with Turnell alone. 

On October 7, the lawyer’s request to hire a Burmese-English language interpreter for Turnell was denied. 

“They only denied our request to hire an interpreter by ourselves. The judge will let us know about getting us one who has been arranged by the [military council’s] Ministry of Education in the next court hearing,” said Ye Lin Aung, referring to the session scheduled for October 28. 

State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, finance ministers Kyaw Win and Soe Win, and deputy minister Set Aung—who are charged with violating the Official Secrets Act along with Turnell—have also been barred from having private meetings with their respective lawyers. 

The charge was filed against all five defendants in the Eastern Yangon District Court in April, under a law which punishes the possession or sharing of information deemed “useful to an enemy” of the state.  

Hearings for the case were initially postponed until the Supreme Court decided on September 14 that Judge Ye Lwin in Naypyitaw would hear the case, after which Sean Turnell and the three Cabinet members were transferred from Yangon’s Insein Prison to a detention centre in Naypyitaw, where their first hearing took place on September 23.  

Limitations have been placed on which family members or lawyers could attend the hearings, which are being held under maximum security by the junta. Starting from the second court hearing on October 7, only two lawyers per defendant were allowed to enter the court, members of Suu Kyi’s legal team said. 

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