State secrets case: Reuters reporters imprisoned in Myanmar appeal against conviction


The lawyers of the accused two Reuters reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo who were sentenced to seven years of imprisonment in Myanmar, have lodged an appeal, against the conviction on charges of breaking the country's Official Secrets Act on Monday. The appeal included the evidence of a police set-up and lack of proof of the crime.

Reuters President and Editor-in-Chief, Stephen J. Adler said in a statement that the agency has filed the appeal as the trial court's ruling was not right. He also added that "In condemning them as spies, it ignored compelling evidence of a police set-up, serious due process violations, and the prosecution's failure to prove any of the key elements of the crime."

As per Adler, the court had shifted the burden of proof from the prosecution to the reporters and called on Myanmar to "uphold its stated dedication to rule of law, freedom of the press, and democracy by ordering the release of our colleagues."

Reuters said that before the arrest both the reporters were working on an investigative case that includes the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys by security forces and local Buddhists in Myanmar's Rakhine state during an army operation that began on 2017 August.

The 32-year-old Wa and 28-year-old Kyaw were penalized in last September 2018 after the trial took place at a Yangon district court and the judgement raised several questions on Myanmar's concept of democracy.

Several diplomats, as well as human right activists, started to put forward their concerns related to this landmark case.

Meanwhile, in September Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi clarified that the jailing of the Reuters reports had nothing to do with the "freedom of expression," and a week after the conviction she again stated that they were not jailed because of their profession but for handling official secrets.

During eight months of the hearing, both the convicts testified that on December 12, two policemen, with whom they never met before, handed them papers rolled up in a newspaper during a meeting at a Yangon restaurant and after few moments those officers told Wa and Kyaw that they were bundled into a car by plainclothes officers. Later, in April, a prosecution witness stated that a senior official had ordered subordinates to plant those documents to trap those reporters

However, the defence lawyer filed the appeal at the Yangon-based High Court on Monday. So, if the court allows the appeal then prior to handling a decision, the prosecution, as well as defence lawyers, will be given a chance to present written and oral arguments in the court.