In Myanmar, Australian Pleads Not Guilty, Japan Calls For Videographer’s Release

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A rally for the release of prisoners including filmmaker Toru Kubota (photo source: AFP)

Australian economist Sean Turnell, being held in Myanmar, has pleaded not guilty in closed courts to charges of violating the nation’s “official secrets act,” while a Japanese lawmaker has visited Myanmar to advocate for the release of Japanese filmmaker Toru Kubota. 

Australian Sean Turnell, an advisor to the ousted Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, pled not guilty in closed courts today. He is being charged alongside Aung San Suu Kyi on charges that involve immigration and state secrets, but exact details of the case have not been made public. Turnell, who is facing 14 years in prison, was arrested shortly following the coup, and has been accused of trying to flee the country.

Penny Wong, Australian Foreign Minister, has said that Professor Turnell’s release is a priority of the Australian government

Australian Sean Turnell in Myanmar’s court (photo source: AFP)

Meanwhile, Hiromichi Watanabe, a member of Japan’s ruling party, has reportedly met with Myanmar’s junta leader Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyitaw to discuss the release of 26-year-old filmmaker Toru Kubota.

The videographer was arrested last month after entering Myanmar on a tourist visa. Charges against him include encouraging dissent against the military government and breaking immigration law. 

Myanmar state media reported that the purpose of the Japanese lawmaker’s visit was to discuss bilateral ties between the two nations. 

The international community responded with concern last month when Myanmar executed four prisoners including a prominent lawmaker and democracy campaigner. 

ASEAN announced earlier this month that Myanmar’s junta would be excluded from ASEAN meetings until the country makes sufficient progress toward peace.