Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has confirmed Australian economist Sean Turnell is free after spending 650 days in a Myanmar prison.
Myanmar’s military junta released a statement on Thursday declaring Mr Turnell and three other prisoners would be released as a gesture of “goodwill” on the country’s national day.
Mr Turnell was arrested shortly after Myanmar’s military seized control of the country in February last year.
He was an economic advisor to the ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and was sentenced for three years in September on charges of “violating the country’s official states secrets act”, which he has denied vehemently.
The Prime Minister confirmed Mr Turnell’s release and said the Australian was in “amazingly good spirits” and was on his way back home to his family.
“Occasionally in this job you have a big moment. And I’ve just spoken to Sean Turnell, who has been released from 65 days of unfair, unjust imprisonment in Myanmar,” Mr Albanese said in Bangkok on Thursday night.
“He was in amazingly good spirits. We, of course, are giving him, as you would expect, health support as well.
“And we’ll make sure that he gets with his family. We would ask at this time that his privacy be respected while he just gets through this period.”
After speaking to Mr Turnell, the Prime Minister passed on “couple of quotes” directly from the returning Australian about what drove him while he was incarcerated.
Mr Albanese shared a story of how Mr Turnell would receive food hampers from the Australian embassy which would be emblazoned with the Australian crest on it.
“He would eat it and he would put the tote bags at where the bars were on the cell in which he was being detained so that both he could see, and the guards who were detaining him could see, the Australian Crest so that he could keep that optimism,” Mr Albanese said.
“And the Australian Crest, of course, with the kangaroo and emu that don’t go backwards. They don’t go backwards. It was very important for him.
Mr Albanese repeated Mr Turnell’s gratitude for the work by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, embassy officials and other regional diplomats.
“Sean said to me that he wanted to thank, also importantly, the people of Australia who have not given up, continued to run a campaign and to advocate for his release,” he said.
“And he was very conscious of that while he was detained. He went through a hard time.”