|AIWA! NO!|A Myanmar court heard arguments on Monday in the appeal of two Reuters reporters sentenced to seven years in jail on charges of breaking the Official Secrets Act.
A Myanmar court heard arguments on Monday in the appeal of two Reuters reporters sentenced to seven years in jail 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 toward democracy and sparked an outcry from diplomats and human rights advocates.
Lawyers for the reporters filed an appeal against the conviction in early November, citing evidence of a police set-up and lack of proof of a crime.
For more coverage on jailed Reuters reporters: https://reut.rs/2FuHigK
Lawyers for the reporters and the prosecution presented arguments for more than an hour on Monday 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.
The operation sent more than 730,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh, according to U.N. estimates.
L. Khun Ring Pan said the lower court had ignored flaws in the prosecution case, including inconsistencies regarding the reporters’ arrest.
Police said the two were seized when they walked past a routine police traffic stop holding confidential documents.
But during eight months of hearings, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo testified that two policemen they had not met before handed them papers rolled up in a newspaper during a meeting at a Yangon restaurant on Dec. 12, 2017.
Almost immediately afterwards, they said, they were bundled into a car by plainclothes officers and taken into detention.
“The arrest at the traffic stop is a lie. The truth is they were arrested in a set up. There cannot be legal action based on a set up,” the defense lawyer said.