Imprisoned Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested in a “trap” that was set up by a Myanmar police chief in December, a police officer told the Insein Township court today.
The two reporters were arrested on the evening of Dec. 12 after being handed “secret documents” by two police officers who invited Wa Lone to dinner, to which Kyaw Soe Oo tagged along. The two reporters have been on trial since January, with the prosecution accusing them of violating the Official Secrets Act, which carries a penalty of up to 14 years in prison.
They were in the process of investigating the massacre of 10 Rohingya men and boys in Rakhine State’s Inn Din village, for which seven soldiers have since been convicted and sentenced to 10 years each in prison.
Police Captain Moe Yan Naing, who was brought in today as a witness for the prosecution, told the court that he and several other police officers who had previously given interviews to Wa Lone were rounded up at the headquarters of Battalion 8 in northern Yangon and interviewed by an “information team” about their conversations with Wa Lone.
During that internal investigation, Police Brigadier General Tin Ko Ko instructed another police officer, Lance Corporal Naing Lin, to set up a meeting with Wa Lone that night with the aim of entrapping him with “secret documents from Battalion 8.”
“Police Brigadier General Tin Ko Ko gave the documents to Police Lance Corporal Naing Lin and told him to give them to Wa Lone and said that when Wa Lone comes out of the restaurant, the Htaunt Kyant regional police force has to entrap him and arrest him,” Moe Yan Naing testified, according to Reuters.
“Police Brigadier General Tin Ko Ko told the police members: ‘If you don’t get Wa Lone, you will go to jail,’” the police captain added.
Moe Yan Naing has also been in police detention since Dec. 12.
Moe Yan Naing’s account of that day’s events matched with those of the defendants, who also say they were arrested immediately after having been handed papers by two police offers whom they had never met before and who proposed the dinner. These two police officers have not yet appeared publicly. Previous testimony by other police officers has claimed that the reporters were arrested at a routine traffic search by police who unexpectedly found military documents in the reporter’s possession.
In January, the reporters’ defense attorney submitted news articles showing that the information in the documents had already been in the public domain.
In December, a few days after the reporters’ arrest, National League for Democracy spokesman Win Htein described the arrest as “entrapment” and encouraged lawyers and activists to seek pressure from the international community to secure their release.
UN officials, foreign governments, and press freedom activists have called for the reporters’ immediate release. Today’s hearing was attended by several foreign diplomats.