Wed, Apr 24, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Myanmar’s top court rejects appeal of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists

AFP, NAYPYIDAW

Pan Ei Mon, right, and Chit Su Win, the wives of jailed Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, speak to the media outside the court in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

Myanmar’s Supreme Court yesterday rejected the latest appeal by two Pulitzer Prize-winning Reuters journalists who were jailed for seven years on charges linked to their reporting on the Rohingya crisis, as hopes now turn to a presidential pardon.

Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, have been behind bars since their arrest in December 2017 under Myanmar’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act.

They were convicted of possessing classified documents relating to security operations in Rakhine State during a brutal military crackdown against Rohingya Muslims that forced about 740,000 to flee over the border into Bangladesh.

The initial ruling in September last year was upheld in January by the Yangon High Court.

Yesterday, the reporters were not at the Supreme Court in Naypyidaw to hear the ruling.

Under Myanmar’s judicial system, the journalists could take their appeal back to the Supreme Court judges twice more, but it is unclear whether they are to try this option or if they are to pin their hopes on a pardon.

The reporters had indicated that they did not want to continue with the legal process, but a final decision had not yet been made, defense attorney Khin Maung Zaw said.

Both of the journalists’ wives were at the court for the ruling and spoke side-by-side to reporters afterward.

“I’m very upset by the Supreme Court’s decision,” said Chit Su Win, wife of Kyaw Soe Oo. “We really hoped our husbands would be released, but it hasn’t happened.”

Supporters believe that the pair were punished for investigating a massacre of 10 Rohingya in Rakhine in September 2017.

The story earned the team a Pulitzer Prize.

Myanmar’s armed forces say that the campaign was justified as a means to root out Rohingya militants, but soldiers involved in the massacre investigated by Reuters were jailed.

Despite global outcry, the two remain in Yangon’s Insein prison.

Rights groups and legal experts say that the case against the reporters was riddled with irregularities.

A whistle-blowing police officer testified during their trial that his superior had ordered his team to trap the reporters in a sting — testimony the judge chose to ignore.

Officer Moe Yan Naing was initially called as a prosecution witness before breaking ranks in court.

“Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo did not commit any crime, nor was there any proof that they did,” Reuters chief counsel Gail Gove said in a statement following yesterday’s ruling. “Instead, they were victims of a police set-up to silence their truthful reporting. We will continue to do all we can to free them as soon as possible.”

Rights groups have urged Burmese State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi to use her influence to secure this, but she has so far refused to intervene.

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