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Myanmar's top court hears Reuters reporters' appeal in official secrets case

Reuters journalists Wa Lone, 32, and (right) Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, after their sentencing. Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters Yangon, Myanmar (Burma) Mar 27, 2019, 11.19 PM (IST)

Myanmar's Supreme Court heard the appeal on Tuesday of two Reuters journalists imprisoned for breaking a colonial-era official secrets law, in a case that has raised questions about Myanmar's progress towards democracy.

Reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have spent more than 15 months in detention since they were arrested in December 2017, while investigating a massacre of Rohingya Muslim civilians involving Myanmar soldiers.

Law officer Ko Ko Maung, representing the government, said they had been found in possession of secret documents that could have harmed national security.

Outlining their grounds of appeal, the reporters' lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, cited lack of proof of a crime and evidence that the pair were set up by police. A policeman had told a lower court last year that officers had planted secret documents on the two reporters.

A district court judge in Yangon found the two journalists guilty under the Official Secrets Act last September and sentenced them to seven years in prison. The Yangon High Court rejected an earlier appeal in January.

Both remain separated from their young daughters. The wife of 32-year-old Wa Lone gave birth to their first child last year while Wa Lone was behind bars. Kyaw Soe Oo celebrated his 29th birthday in Yangon's Insein jail this month.

The journalists were not present at Tuesday's hearing, but their families had travelled to the capital Naypyitaw, about 370 km (230 miles) north of Yangon, to attend.

The reporters' convictions were heavily criticized by press freedom advocates and Western diplomats, putting additional pressure on Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate who took power in 2016 amid a transition from military rule.

Story highlights

Reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have spent more than 15 months in detention since they were arrested in December 2017, while investigating a massacre of Rohingya Muslim civilians involving Myanmar soldiers.