Myanmar court hears appeal in case of jailed Reuters reporters

Activists in Yangon calling for the release of imprisoned Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo on Dec 12, one year after their arrest.
Activists in Yangon calling for the release of imprisoned Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo on Dec 12, one year after their arrest.PHOTO: REUTERS

YANGON • A Myanmar court heard arguments yesterday in the appeal of two Reuters reporters sentenced to seven years in prison on charges of breaking the Official Secrets Act.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were found guilty in September after a trial at a Yangon district court in a landmark case that has raised questions about Myanmar's progress towards democracy and sparked an outcry from diplomats and human rights advocates.

Lawyers for the reporters filed an appeal against the conviction early last month, citing evidence of a police set-up and lack of proof of a crime.

Lawyers for the reporters and the prosecution presented arguments for more than an hour yesterday before the hearing was adjourned. The court did not give a date for a decision.

Appeal lawyer L. Khun Ring Pan, asked the judge, Aung Naing, to overturn the lower court's decision and release the reporters.

The lawyer said the lower court had wrongly placed the burden of proof on the defendants and prosecutors had failed to prove the reporters gathered and collected secret information, sent information to an enemy of Myanmar or that they had an intention to harm national security.

"According to the evidence, case files and references I have submitted, they are innocent," L. Khun Ring Pan said.

 
 
 

Before their arrest, the reporters had been working on a Reuters investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys by security forces and Buddhist civilians in western Myanmar's Rakhine state during an army crackdown that began in August last year.

L. Khun Ring Pan said the lower court had ignored flaws in the prosecution case, including inconsistencies regarding the reporters' arrest.

Khine Khine Soe, a legal officer representing the government, said the evidence had shown the reporters had been found to have collected and kept confidential documents.

"It was found that they had the intention to harm national security and the national interest," Khine Khine Soe said.

The judge gave no response to the presentations.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 25, 2018, with the headline 'Myanmar court hears appeal in case of jailed Reuters reporters'. Print Edition | Subscribe