YANGON (Reuters) – A Myanmar court docket on Friday rejected the attraction of two Reuters reporters sentenced to seven years in jail on costs of breaking the Official Secrets and techniques Act, saying the protection had not supplied adequate proof to point out they had been harmless.
Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, had been convicted by a decrease court docket in September in a landmark case that has raised questions on Myanmar’s progress in direction of democracy and sparked an outcry from diplomats and human rights advocates.
“It was an appropriate punishment,” mentioned Excessive Courtroom Decide Aung Naing, referring to the seven-year jail time period meted out by the decrease court docket.
The protection has the choice of creating an extra attraction to the nation’s supreme court docket, primarily based within the capital Naypyitaw.
“In the present day’s ruling is yet one more injustice amongst many inflicted upon Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. They continue to be behind bars for one purpose: these in energy sought to silence the reality,” mentioned Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler in an announcement.
“Reporting will not be a criminal offense, and till Myanmar rights this horrible improper, the press in Myanmar will not be free, and Myanmar’s dedication to rule of regulation and democracy stays doubtful.”
Of their attraction arguments made final month, protection attorneys had cited proof of a police set-up and lack of proof of a criminal offense. They instructed the attraction court docket the decrease court docket that attempted the case had wrongly positioned the burden of proof on the defendants.
The protection additionally mentioned prosecutors had did not show the reporters gathered and picked up secret info, despatched info to an enemy of Myanmar or that they’d an intention to hurt nationwide safety.
Khine Khine Soe, a authorized officer representing the federal government, instructed the attraction listening to final month that the proof confirmed the reporters had collected and saved confidential paperwork. She mentioned they supposed to hurt nationwide safety and the nationwide curiosity.
The decide mentioned on Friday “it was not acceptable” to say that the defendants had acted in keeping with journalistic ethics. “It can’t be mentioned that it was a arrange,” he mentioned.
Standing exterior the court docket constructing in Yangon the place the judgment was pronounced, Kristian Schmidt, the EU ambassador to Myanmar, mentioned the ruling was a “miscarriage of justice and it offers us nice concern for the independence of the justice system of Myanmar”.
Protection lawyer Than Zaw Aung, talking after the ruling, mentioned his crew would focus on the choice of a supreme court docket attraction with the 2 reporters. “We’re very dissatisfied with the judgment,” he mentioned.
Earlier than their arrest, the reporters had been engaged on a Reuters investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim males and boys by safety forces and Buddhist civilians in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State throughout a military crackdown that started in August 2017.
The operation despatched greater than 730,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh, in keeping with United Nations’ estimates.
Reporting by Shoon Naing and Antoni Slodkowski, Enhancing by Alex Richardson and Raju Gopalakrishnan