Myanmar’s top court rejects final appeal by jailed Reuters journalists

Journalists jailed for seven years for work on investigation into massacre of Rohingya

Chit Su Win (left), wife of jailed Reuters journalist Kyaw Soe Oo, listens to Pan Ei Mon, wife of journalist Wa Lone, speaking to the media after the court hearing in Naypyidaw, Myanmar on Monday. Photograph: Thet Aung/AFP/Getty Images

Chit Su Win (left), wife of jailed Reuters journalist Kyaw Soe Oo, listens to Pan Ei Mon, wife of journalist Wa Lone, speaking to the media after the court hearing in Naypyidaw, Myanmar on Monday. Photograph: Thet Aung/AFP/Getty Images

 

Myanmar’s top court on Tuesday rejected the appeal of two Reuters reporters sentenced to seven years in jail for breaking the Official Secrets Act, in a landmark case that has raised questions about the country’s transition to democracy.

“They were sentenced for seven years and this decision stands, and the appeal is rejected,” supreme court justice Soe Naing told the court in the capital, Naypyitaw, without elaborating.

Wa Lone (33) and Kyaw Soe Oo (29) have spent more than 16 months in detention since they were arrested in December 2017 while working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys.

They are being held at Yangon’s Insein prison and were not present to hear the supreme court verdict.

Their wives, who had travelled from Yangon to hear the verdict on Tuesday, emerged from the courtroom quietly wiping away tears.

Panei Mon, Wa Lone’s wife, who gave birth to their first child last year, said she had been “hoping for the best”.

“Our husbands are good people,” she said. “We want them to be released as soon as possible.”

The journalists were found guilty under the Official Secrets Act last September by a district court judge in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon. They were sentenced to seven years in prison. The Yangon high court rejected an earlier appeal in January.

The appeal to the country’s most senior court, the supreme court, cited lack of proof of a crime and evidence that the pair were set-up by police. A policeman testified last year that officers had planted secret documents on the two reporters.

“Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo did not commit any crime, nor was there any proof that they did,” Reuters chief counsel Gail Gove said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Instead, they were victims of a police set-up to silence their truthful reporting. We will continue to do all we can to free them as soon as possible.”

Than Zaw Aung, a lawyer for the defence, said the families of the two men planned to submit a letter to Myanmar president Win Myint’s office seeking a pardon.

A government spokesman did not answer calls seeking comment. – Reuters