Date
19 May 2019
Chit Su Win (left, inset) and  Pan Ei Mon, the wives of jailed Reuters journalists Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone, speak to reporters outside the court in Naypyidaw in Myanmar on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters
Chit Su Win (left, inset) and Pan Ei Mon, the wives of jailed Reuters journalists Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone, speak to reporters outside the court in Naypyidaw in Myanmar on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters

Myanmar top court rejects appeal by jailed Reuters journalists

Myanmar’s top court on Tuesday rejected the appeal of two Reuters reporters sentenced to seven years in jail for breaking the Official Secrets Act, in a landmark case that has raised questions about the country’s transition to democracy, Reuters reports.

“They were sentenced for seven years and this decision stands, and the appeal is rejected,” Supreme Court Justice Soe Naing told the court in the capital, Naypyitaw, without elaborating.

Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, have spent more than 16 months in detention since they were arrested in December 2017 while working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys.

They are being held at Yangon’s Insein prison and were not present to hear the Supreme Court verdict.

Their wives, who had traveled from Yangon to hear the verdict on Tuesday, emerged from the courtroom quietly wiping away tears.

Panei Mon, Wa Lone’s wife, who gave birth to their first child last year, said she had been “hoping for the best”.

“Our husbands are good people,” she said. “We want them to be released as soon as possible.”

The journalists were found guilty under the Official Secrets Act last September by a district court judge in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon. They were sentenced to seven years in prison. The Yangon High Court rejected an earlier appeal in January.

Lawyers for the reporters appealed again to the country’s most senior court, the Supreme Court, citing lack of proof of a crime and evidence that the pair were set up by police. A policeman testified last year that officers had planted secret documents on the two reporters.

“Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo did not commit any crime, nor was there any proof that they did,” Reuters chief counsel Gail Gove said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Instead, they were victims of a police set-up to silence their truthful reporting. We will continue to do all we can to free them as soon as possible.”

A government spokesman did not answer calls seeking comment.

The reporters’ imprisonment has sparked an outcry from press freedom advocates, Western diplomats, and world leaders, adding to pressure on Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate who took power in 2016 amid a transition to democracy from military rule.

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CG

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