Myanmar court rules Reuters reporters can face full trial

Myanmar court charges Reuters reporters under Official Secrets Act | Bangkok Post: news

Myanmar court charges Reuters reporters under Official Secrets Act | Bangkok Post: news

A judge in Myanmar ruled on Monday the prosecution of two Reuters journalists charged with illegally possessing official information can go to a full trial.

The two men have pleaded not guilty.

Government spokesperson Zaw Htay could not be reached for comment. Before he was dragged away by officers, Kyaw Soe Oo exchanged words with his daughter, a toddler, who had been waiting behind barbed wires before the court hearing started to catch a glimpse of her father.

Wa Lone, 32, speaks to reporters as police escort him from the courthouse following his pretrial hearing Monday in Yongon.

"We call on the Government of Myanmar to stop this disgraceful process and release Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo now".

"These Reuters journalists were doing their jobs in an independent and impartial way, and there are no facts of evidence to suggest that they've done anything wrong or broken any law." he said.

As of July, the United Nations said almost 1 million Rohingya reside in Cox's Bazar, a Bangladeshi border town now brimming with run-down, deeply vulnerable migrant camps.

"Today's decision casts serious doubt on Myanmar's commitment to press freedom and the rule of law", it said. He has declined to comment throughout the proceedings, saying Myanmar's courts are independent and the case would be conducted according to the law. The case has been adjourned till July 16.

Jorge Silva / Reuters Pan Ei Mon and Chit Su, wives of detained Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, comfort each other after a court hearing in February.

Defense lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said Monday that the defense team would "hope for the best, but prepare for the worst".

"Naturally, I'm not satisfied not happy", he told newsmen when asked about the court's decision. They said the journalists were arrested in a police sting operation that was aimed at interfering with their reporting. "We will struggle and in the end we will have a happy ending". The two journalists were invited by police officers to a meeting December 12 at a restaurant in Yangon, where they were handed papers that allegedly linked security forces to an attack on Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested late previous year while reporting on the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar's Rakhine state, hundreds of thousands of whom have fled to Bangladesh to escape violence and official persecution.

At the same July 2 hearing, prosecutor Kyaw Min Aung said documents they had in their hands when they were arrested detailed the movements of security forces, while further documents found on their mobile phones ranged from confidential to top secret.

The killings took place during a military crackdown that United Nations agencies say led to more than 700,000 Rohingya fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh.

In April, 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.

After his court appearance, Moe Yan Naing was sentenced to a year in jail for violating police discipline by having spoken to Wa Lone, and his family was evicted from police housing. Police have said the eviction and his sentencing were not related to his testimony.

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