Myanmar court rejects Reuters reporters' appeal against 7-year sentence

Myanmar court rejects Reuters reporters' appeal against 7-year sentence

Myanmar court rejects Reuters reporters' appeal against 7-year sentence

A Myanmar court has rejected an appeal by two Reuters reporters convicted of breaking a state secrets act in September.

Lawyers representing the young men said the Yangon Regional High Court, in its ruling expected later Friday, could uphold the sentences, reduce the terms or quash the convictions.

"We call on local authorities to immediately, unconditionally release Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo", said the Committee to Protect Journalists. The truth is they were arrested in a setup. "Reporting is not a crime, and until Myanmar rights this awful wrong, the press in Myanmar is not free, and Myanmar's commitment to rule of law and democracy remains in doubt".

During eight months of hearings, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo testified that two policemen they had not met before handed them papers rolled up in a newspaper during a meeting at a Yangon restaurant on December 12.

The two men have insisted they were the victims of a police set-up, pointing to testimony from a serving officer who said superior ordered other to entrap them.

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The journalists were working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys in a village in the state.

More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh in a crackdown that began in August 2017.

The United Nations has likened Myanmar's brutal military crackdown on the Rohingya to ethnic cleansing.

"The defendants.have breached Official Secrets Act section 3.1.c, and are sentenced to seven years".

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".

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"It casts serious doubts on the independence of the judiciary of Myanmar and for people's right to information and learning the truth", he said.

"We hope for freedom for them", Than Zaw Aung, a lawyer for the journalists, told AFP Thursday, adding that the pair will not be present in court.

"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. "We were expecting to welcome them in front of Insein Prison". PEN America, which honored the pair wth a PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award a year ago, called Friday's decision a "travesty of justice", calling on Suu Kyi's government to intervene and pardon them.

"The court decides to dismiss the appeal", he said.

The reporters' legal team can lodge an appeal with Burma's supreme court, but a presidential pardon would be an alternative option to securing their release. "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".

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