Published: Sun, January 13, 2019
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Two Reuters journalists lose appeal against 7-year sentence in Myanmar

Two Reuters journalists lose appeal against 7-year sentence in Myanmar

The appeal by the two Reuters reporters in Myanmar of their seven-year prison sentences for violating a state secrets law has been denied.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested in Yangon, Myanmar's main city, on 12 December 2017.

The trial of the pair was widely criticised, with human rights groups and worldwide governments accusing the Myanmar regime of using the courts to target the two reporters for their reporting on the military-led massacre of Rohingya muslims in the village of Inn Din in Rahkine.

"We will continue to advocate at all levels for the just release of these courageous journalists", State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino said in a statement released on Friday.

Aung Naing, a judge at the Yangon Regional High Court, said the original verdict was a "reasonable decision" delivered in line with the law.

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Police launched a rape investigation after being called to the facility on December 29 regarding an infant who had been "coded". Lawyer John Micheaels, representing the woman's family, described her as being in a "completely vulnerable state".

The defence has the option of making a further appeal to the country's Supreme Court, based in the capital, Naypyitaw.

"Journalists who would dare to investigate the matter, like Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo did, now know the price they would pay". "We can not stand by and accept this antidemocratic decision.Journalists must have the freedom to report the facts and to defend, expose and advance the truth without fear of retaliation, violence, imprisonment or being killed".

The appeal against the verdict, which was filed in November, argued that "compelling evidence" of the arrest being a set-up by the police, as well as violations in due process and key holes in the prosecution's case, had been ignored.

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.

Wa Lone had testified during the trial that the phone number did not work and he did not have contact with the rebel group. She said they meant to harm national security and the national interest. "It can not be said that it was a set-up", he said.

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However, the more than 339,000 contributors now have the option to either receive a refund or to forward their donation. Kolfage has set up a fundraising goal of $1 billion to help pay for a physical barrier along the southern border.

"I feel really sad that what we hoped for did not happen", a stone-faced Chit Su Win, who is married to Kyaw Soe Oo, told reporters outside the court.

United Nations investigators have called for top Myanmar generals to be investigated for genocide, and criticised the country's de facto leader Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi for failing to stop the attacks.

Jeremy Hunt, the British foreign secretary, who made earlier pledges to champion the journalists' cause, on Friday called on Ms Suu Kyi to take a "personal interest" in the case.

Defense lawyer Than Zaw Aung, speaking after the ruling, said his team would discuss the option of a supreme court appeal with the two reporters.

Reacting to the verdict outside the court the European Union ambassador to Myanmar Kristian Schmidt said he looked to the president to "correct" the injustice. "We are very anxious about due process in this case", Mr Hunt told BBC radio.

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As temperatures drop into the upper 20s to lower 30s overnight, rain will transition into snow as we head into Monday. A few spots could drop into the lower 30s which means rain could transition into snow or a wintry mix.

The violent military campaign in 2017 forced more than 720,000 Rohingya across the border to Bangladesh, with refugees bringing accounts of murder, rape and arson.

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