Myanmar: Reuters journalists' rejected appeal maintains 'an appalling farce'

Reuters Journalists Jailed In Myanmar For 7 Years To Not Be Freed Early

Reuters Journalists Jailed In Myanmar For 7 Years To Not Be Freed Early

The two Reuters journalists imprisoned in Myanmar for their reporting on the violence against the Rohingya in Rahkine state have lost their appeal, with the court upholding their guilty verdict and lengthy prison sentences.

In September last year, a Yangon district court sentenced Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo to seven years in prison for illegal possession of official documents, sparking an global outcry from activists and diplomats in a case seen by many as a test of Myanmar's fledgeling democracy.

Detained Reuters journalist Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone are escorted by police as they leave after a court hearing in Yangon.

The men say they were arrested in a setup by police meant to inhibit reporting on a massacre of Rohingya, a minority Muslim group. "We call for authorities to release them immediately", Reuters' Adler said in a statement the day after their arrests.

The defense has the option of making a further appeal to the country's supreme court, based in the capital Naypyitaw.

The two men - who were not present for the decision - have insisted they were victims of a police set-up, pointing to testimony from a serving officer who said a superior ordered others to entrap them. "I believe the two will be freed", she said.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, had worked on one of the most detailed accounts of official abuses, an investigation of the killing of 10 Rohingya villagers in Inn Din village, for which seven soldiers were eventually sentenced to up to 10 years in prison with hard labor.

"Journalists who would dare to investigate the matter, like Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo did, now know the price they would pay". They told the appeal court the lower court that tried the case had wrongly placed the burden of proof on the defendants.

The defence also said 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.

Ms Suu Kyi's worldwide standing has already been severely damaged by accusations from United Nations investigators that she failed to use her "moral authority" to stop the military's extreme violence against the Rohingya.

"Action can be taken against them if, judging by their behavior and characteristics, it appears they will harm the national security and interests of the country", said Aung Naing.

Standing outside the court building in Yangon where the judgment was pronounced, Kristian Schmidt, the European Union ambassador to Myanmar, said the ruling was a "miscarriage of justice and it gives us great concern for the independence of the justice system of Myanmar".

The appeal was also condemned by Amnesty International, who said the ruling "perpetuates an appalling injustice" while the chief executive of PEN America, Suzanne Nossel, said that "yet again Myanmar's justice system has turned its backs on the principles of rule of law and respect for rights that are the litmus test of democracy".

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