Macquarie University economics AP sentenced to 3 years in prison by Myanmar court

Image: Aung San Suu Kyi receives the Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament at a ceremony in Strasbourg on 22 Oct. 1990. (Credit: European Parliament).

An associate professor in economics at Macquarie University has been sentenced to three years in prison by a court in military-ruled Myanmar.

Sean Turnell was found guilty of violating Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act and was also convicted of violating immigration law, the Associated Press reported.

Turnell, 58, had served as an adviser to convicted former leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and was detained in the country’s capital, Naypyitaw, when her elected government was ousted by the army in February 2021.

The economist has already spent 20 months in detention, which will be deducted from his sentence and leaves him less than a year and a half to serve.

Turnell’s research focuses on financial reform within developing economies, and prior to joining the economics department at Macquarie University was an analyst within the Reserve Bank of Australia.

In a statement, the Australian government said: “The Australian Government rejects today’s court ruling in Myanmar against Australian Professor Sean Turnell and calls for his immediate release. Professor Turnell was tried in a closed court. Australia’s Chargé d’Affaires and consular officials in Myanmar made every effort to attend the verdict but were denied access to the court.

They added: “The Australian Government has consistently rejected the charges against Professor Turnell during the more than 19 months he had been unjustly detained by the Myanmar military regime.”

“We will continue to take every opportunity to advocate strongly for Professor Turnell until he has returned to his family in Australia. We acknowledge the strong international support shown for him, including from our region. Professor Turnell is internationally respected for his work to support the people of Myanmar and their economic development.”

Commenting on Turnell’s detention in February 2021 at the time, Macquarie Vice-Chancellor Professor Bruce Dowton said: “I am sure that the University at large shares my deep concern for Professor Turnell and my hopes for his swift release. The University is in close contact with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Government efforts and I commend their dedicated work to secure his release.”