Judge rejects dismissal of case against two Reuters journalists in Myanmar

Journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested four months ago while reporting on the Rohingya crisis

Journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested four months ago while reporting on the Rohingya crisis

Two Reuters journalists who're in jail in Myanmar have failed to win their freedom after a judge rejected a request for the case against them to be dismissed.

Seven Myanmar soldiers have been sentenced to jail with hard labour for their part in the extrajudicial killings of 10 Rohingya Muslim men a year ago, according to a Facebook post by the army chief late on Tuesday. The reporters were arrested for allegedly collecting classified documents from their sources in the police.

The two had worked on Reuters' coverage of the crisis in Rakhine, where security forces' response to a Muslim insurgents' attack have driven almost 700,000 Rohingya to neighbouring Bangladesh.

The military's version of events is contradicted by accounts given to Reuters by Rakhine Buddhist and Rohingya Muslim witnesses published in the February story.

The United Nations estimates close to 700,000 Rohingya Muslim have fled across the border to neighbouring Bangladesh since August after militant attacks triggered a military crackdown that the United Nations has said is a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing".

Detained Reuters journalist Wa Lone (C) is escorted by police as he talks to media while leaving after his trial at the court house in Yangon, Myanmar, 11 April 2018.

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However, the army has repeatedly claimed the Rohingya men were "terrorists", but has not presented any evidence to back up the allegation.

"For the military personnel under the Military Act 71, four military personnel and three soldiers will be sentenced to ten years in prison with hard labour and to be permanently expelled from the army", the statement said. If convicted, the charge carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

At that same prior hearing, lead prosecutor Kyaw Min Aung countered that the defendants had been found in possession of secret government documents, that by obtaining them the journalists posed a threat to state security and the national interest, and that as such the defence's motion for a dismissal should be rejected.

Wa Lone said, "Our case was not dismissed today". Reuters announced last month that that prominent human rights lawyer Amal Clooney had joined the legal team.

In a statement, Reuters President and Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler said: "We are deeply disappointed with the court's decision".

"They have not violated any laws in the course of their newsgathering and were simply doing their jobs". Some reporters from local and worldwide media brought birthday cake for Wa Lone, whose birthday was on Wedsday, who blew the candles out on the way to the courtroom. "I want them to be released soon".

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