Tue, May 01, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Burmese whistle-blower sentenced

SHOCKING:The police captain earlier this month gave testimony that a senior officer ordered police to ‘get’ a Reuters reporter by handing him sensitive files

AFP, Naypyidaw

Burmese Police Captain Moe Yan Naing, center, leaves the court in Naypyidaw on April 20 following the ongoing trial of two detained journalists.

Photo: AFP

A Burmese police officer who told a court that his colleagues had tried to “entrap” two Reuters journalists has been handed a prison term, a police spokesman said yesterday.

Police Captain Moe Yan Naing, called as a prosecution witness earlier this month in a pre-trial hearing against the journalists, stunned the courtroom when he claimed that a senior officer had ordered colleagues to “get” reporter Wa Lone by handing him sensitive files.

The 32-year-old Burmese journalist and his colleague Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, face up to 14 years in prison on charges of possessing classified documents relating to security operations in Rakhine state, where the military is accused of atrocities against Rohingya Muslims. They have been detained since they were arrested in December after meeting with police, in a case that has drawn intense global attention.

According to a police spokesman, Moe Yan Naing has been jailed for breaching a police disciplinary act, a charge that he had been facing since December for his previous communication with Wa Lone.

Police sources said he was sentenced before he gave his shocking testimony — an extremely rare instance of a security official openly challenging superiors in the formerly junta-run country.

“He was sentenced because he told others about information concerned with the police force without permission,” Police Colonel Myo Thu Soe told reporters, declining to say when the verdict was reached, or how long his jail term was.

“He was found to have breached the police disciplinary act,” he added.

Moe Yan Naing’s wife told reporters that she was informed of her husband’s sentencing on Sunday night.

“The police told me yesterday [Sunday] evening that he had been sent to Insein prison to face a year-long sentence,” Tu Tu said through tears.

After he testified on April 20, the defense quickly expressed fears for his safety, while the prosecution filed a motion to declare him a “hostile witness.”

Within 24 hours, Tu Tu and her children were evicted from their police housing in the capital, Naypyidaw.

A police spokesman denied any connection between the two events, saying that it was a “coincidence.”

The case against the Reuters reporters compounded fears about slipping press freedoms in Myanmar, a fledgling democracy riven with ethnic conflicts.

At the time of their arrests the reporters were investigating security officers’ roles in the extrajudicial killing of 10 Rohingya men in northern Rakhine state, the site of an army crackdown that the UN says amounts to ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minority.

The military has overwhelmingly denied allegations of atrocities, but did concede that security officers took part in the killings reported by Reuters — a rare admission of guilt made after the journalists were arrested.

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