Tuesday, 22 January, 2019

Court Rejects Appeal by Jailed Reuters Reporters

Pan Ei Mon and Chit Su Win wives of jailed Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo after their appeal was rejected Pan Ei Mon and Chit Su Win wives of jailed Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo after their appeal was rejected
Jeannette Daniel | 13 January, 2019, 10:02

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were convicted in September in a troubling case that sparked concerns among human rights groups and raised questions about Myanmar's commitment to democracy.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested in Yangon, Myanmar's main city, on 12 December 2017.

Reuters reports said the reporters were arrested as they were working on an investigation into the murder of ten Rohingya Muslims by Myanmar's security forces in the western Rakhine state of Myanmar, during army crackdown in August a year ago. Myanmar authorities must release the two journalists immediately and unconditionally.

Judge Aung Naing rejected the appeal, calling the original judgement a "reasonable decision", according to Agence France-Presse.

The defence can now appeal to the Supreme Court, based in the capital Naypyitaw.

The two men - who were not present for the decision - have insisted they were victims of a police set-up, pointing to testimony from a serving officer who said a superior ordered others to entrap them.

"(The decision) shows her contempt and the contempt in the country for global opinion", Zawacki said.

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi said in September that the jailing of the reporters had nothing to do with freedom of expression.

Outside the country, the two men have been hailed as media freedom heroes and jointly named Time Magazine's Person of the Year 2018, alongside other persecuted and slain journalists.

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The appeal against the verdict, which was filed in November, argued that "compelling evidence" of the arrest being a set-up by the police, as well as violations in due process and key holes in the prosecution's case, had been ignored.

Than Zaw Aung (centre), lawyer of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo speaks to journalists after a hearing at the Yangon Regional High Court in Yangon.

The appeal was also condemned by Amnesty International, who said the ruling "perpetuates an appalling injustice" while the chief executive of PEN America, Suzanne Nossel, said that "yet again Myanmar's justice system has turned its backs on the principles of rule of law and respect for rights that are the litmus test of democracy".

The defence also said prosecutors had failed to prove the reporters gathered and collected secret information, sent information to an enemy of Myanmar or that they had an intent to harm national security.

Explaining his verdict, Judge Aung Naing said the reporters had behaved in a way that showed they meant to harm the country. He said they meant to harm national security and the national interest.

When arrested the two were investigating a mass execution of Rohingyas, hundreds of thousands of whom have been forced to flee destruction and persecution in the northern Rakhine province of Myanmar.

European Union ambassador to Myanmar, Kristian Schmidt, expressed disappointment over the ruling.

The operation sent more than 730,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh, according to United Nations estimates.

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