the main points
- Australian economist Sean Turnell is in “good spirits” after his release from a prison in Myanmar.
- Professor Tornell has been behind bars for 650 days.
- He had been sentenced to three years in prison for violating official secrets and immigration laws.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Australian economist Sean Turnell is “in good spirits” after his release from a prison in Myanmar where he spent 650 days behind bars.
Myanmar’s military junta arrested him in 2021 while serving as an advisor to ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
He was sentenced to three years in prison for violating official secrets and immigration laws.
Albanese said he spoke to Professor Tornell on the phone after the 58-year-old was released.
“He was in really good spirits. He was telling jokes,” he told reporters when he arrived in Bangkok for the APEC summit.
“He is one of my constituents and he apologized for not voting in the election. I assured him he would not be fined and that was understandable.”
Mr Albanese said he wanted to pass on a message from the academic thanking those who advocated for his release and saying “the people have been amazing”.
But he said Prof Tornell had struggled behind bars.
“He had a tough time,” Albanese said.
“He’s not a big guy, and he’s obviously lost weight. But he was in very good spirits.”
Albanese said Mr. Tornell will need to undergo medical exams after his lengthy prison term.
“That can take a physical toll, but it can also have other health costs. We need to keep that in mind. We need to give him space to recover,” he said.
Secretary of State Penny Wong posted a photo on social media of Professor Tornell thanking everyone who worked for his release including from within the Foreign Office.
Albanese had called for Professor Tornell’s release during his trip to the ASEAN summit in Cambodia, describing his imprisonment as “unfair and unfair imprisonment”.
“I also want to thank, too, our friends in ASEAN, and in particular, Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia, who headed ASEAN and kept up the pressure,” he said.
“Our friends are here in Thailand too, including the prime minister.”
Mr. Albanese also thanked Senator Wong for working on regional relations that helped pave the way for the academic’s release.
Professor Turnell’s release was announced on state television on Thursday, as part of a Myanmar National Day amnesty that also included former British Ambassador Vicki Bowman and Japanese director Toru Kubota.
Nearly 6,000 people have been released, including hundreds of people classified as political prisoners.
Sean Turnell was released as part of an amnesty on the occasion of Myanmar’s National Day. source: AP / MRTV
Albanese revealed that food in prison was usually served in a bucket, but the embassy provided food baskets bearing the Australian logo.
“he is [Turnell] He would put the handbags where the bars were in the cell he was being held in so he could see him, and the guards who were holding him could see the Australian crest so he could keep that optimism.”
Albanese would not be tempted by whether the Australian government would reconsider imposing sanctions on Myanmar, which it has so far resisted in part because of efforts to secure Professor Tornell’s freedom.