Sun, Apr 22, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Arrested reporters set up, policeman testifies

PROFESSIONAL PRIDE:Captain Moe Yan Naing told the media outside the courtroom that he testified the truth, because police ‘should have their own standard and dignity’

AP, YANGON, Myanmar

A Burmese police officer on Friday testified that he and several colleagues were ordered to entrap two reporters working for Reuters, dealing a major blow to the government’s case against the journalists.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have been detained since Dec. 12 last year on charges of violating the colonial-era Official Secrets Act that could get them up to 14 years in prison.

The two helped cover the crisis in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, where a brutal counterinsurgency operation last year drove about 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to neighboring Bangladesh.

Police Captain Moe Yan Naing told the court that his superior had arranged for two policemen to meet the reporters at a restaurant and hand over documents described as “important secret papers” in order to entrap them.

Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, counsel for the two journalists and Reuters, called on the prosecution to drop the case immediately, and if not she said the district judge should dismiss it.

“It is now clear to any impartial observer that this case is a bungled attempt to entrap two innocent young men,” she said in a statement. “The US, UK, Canada, the UN and the European Union have already demanded the journalists’ release, and further action may follow if the case is not resolved.”

Moe Yan Naing said he and other colleagues who had been interviewed earlier by Wa Lone about their activities in Rakhine had been interrogated under the direction of 8th Security Police Battalion Brigadier General Tin Ko Ko.

Security forces in Rakhine have been accused of serious human rights violations, including rape and extrajudicial killings, against the persecuted ethnic Rohingya Muslims.

Last week, Myanmar’s military announced it had sentenced seven soldiers to 10 years in prison for their part in the killings, a case covered by the two reporters.

According to the police captain, Tin Ko Ko ordered an officer who had previously spoken to Wa Lone to arrange the Dec. 12 meeting, and threatened other police officers he sent to the meeting with jail if they did not carry out the arrests.

“The reason why I testified the truth was because police should have their own standard and dignity,” Moe Yan Naing told reporters outside the courtroom after testifying as a prosecution witness. “Whatever I testified was the truth.”

He was able to speak to the media only briefly before being led away by a plainclothes security official. He has been under arrest since Dec. 12, apparently for having spoken to Wa Lone the month before.

Reuters issued a statement after the hearing saying that the court had “finally heard the truth.”

“One of the prosecution’s own witnesses admitted that the police received orders to plant evidence and arrest Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo on false charges,” Reuters said. “This case cannot be squared with fairness or justice, and it’s time to bring it to an end. We call for our journalists’ immediate release.”

“Silencing critics through false arrests and arbitrary detention flies in the face of Myanmar’s professed dedication to the rule of law and free speech, and risks lasting damage to the country’s reputation and economy,” Clooney said. “But the truthful testimony of a brave witness is a step in the right direction.”

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