August 26, 2018
Detention of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo continues after they were charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act
Myanmar court to deliver verdicts on jailed Reuters reporters
Two Reuters journalists face another week in detention after a ruling on whether they are guilty of obtaining state secrets in Myanmar was delayed due to a judge’s poor health.
Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, had been due to hear their long-awaited fate at a hearing in Yangon on Monday morning, with hundreds gathered at the court, but it was postponed until 3 September. The pair are charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.
The court in Yangon has been holding hearings since January. The reporters and one police witness for the prosecution have testified that they were set up by police to block or punish them for their reporting of a mass killing of Rohingya Muslims.
The verdict will be delivered amid growing pressure on Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and her government over an army crackdown that began last August. About 700,000 Rohingya have since fled the western state of Rakhine to neighbouring Bangladesh, according to UN agencies.
Soldiers are accused of mass killings, rape and arson in a campaign the UN has called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
Myanmar denies most of the allegations but has acknowledged the killing of 10 Rohingya men and boys by troops and Buddhist civilians in the village of Inn Din that the two Reuters reporters had been investigating when they were arrested.
During eight months of hearings, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have testified that two police officers they had not met before handed them papers rolled up inside a newspaper during a meeting at a Yangon restaurant on 12 December. Almost immediately afterwards, they said, they were bundled into a car by plainclothes officers.
In April a police captain, Moe Yan Naing, testified that a senior officer had ordered his subordinates to plant secret documents on Wa Lone to “trap” the reporter.
Other police witnesses have told court that the reporters had been searched at a routine traffic stop by officers who were unaware they were journalists and found to be holding secret documents from an unknown source.
The verdict is due on the same day that a UN mandated fact-finding mission will release its report on the Rohingya crisis. On Tuesday the UN security council will hold a briefing on Myanmar in New York.
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