Myanmar court allows Reuters’ journalists appeal to proceed

Detained Reuters journalists Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone talk to the media as they are taken from court in Yangon, Myanmar on Feb. 14, 2018. / Ye Aung Thu / AFP /

Myanmar’s High Court has ruled that an appeal in the case of two Reuters reporters sentenced to seven years’ hard labor for violating the Official Secrets Act may proceed, the lead attorney in the case has confirmed.

The appeal, which cites evidence pointing to a police set-up as well as lack of proof that the law was violated, was formally allowed to move forward on Nov. 6, though the court did not announce it publicly, Than Zaw Aung said this morning.

“The case was accepted the day after we had submitted it. It was accepted on Nov. 6. We only got the confirmation the other day,” Than Zaw Aung told Coconuts Yangon over the phone.

Police Captain Moe Yan Naing waits outside the courthouse before attending the ongoing trial of two detained journalists in Yangon on April 20, 2018. Photo: AFP
Police Captain Moe Yan Naing waits outside the courthouse before attending the ongoing trial of two detained journalists in Yangon on April 20, 2018. Photo: AFP

In a landmark case that many viewed as a litmus test for Myanmar’s nascent democracy and press freedom, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were found guilty in September after a controversial eight-month long trial at a Yangon district court, sparking an international uproar from human rights activists and diplomats.

Before their arrest, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo had been part of the investigative team that uncovered the massacre of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys by Myanmar security forces and local Buddhists in Rakhine State.

The two reporters testified in court that they were handed papers rolled up in a newspaper during a meeting with two police officers posing as whistleblowers they had not previously met. Immediately after, they were arrested by plainclothes officers.

During courtroom testimony, former police captain Moe Yan Naing, described the incident as a “trap,” set by a Myanmar police chief. He was sentenced to one year in prison for violating the Police Disciplinary Act.

Just a week after their conviction, Myanmar’s State Counselor and de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi defended their sentencing, insisting it had nothing to do with press freedom at the World Economic Forum.

Yesterday, Wa Lone’s daughter, Thet Htar Angel, celebrated her first 100 days of life without her father. The Myanmar Reuters Bureau Chief, Antoni Slodkowski, shared pictures in a Twitter post of Wa Lone’s wife, Pan Ei Mon, smiling and carrying her daughter.

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