"(The case) ignored compelling evidence of a police set-up, (and) serious due process violations,” Reuters Editor-in-Chief said.
Myanmar's High Court gave the green light for an appeal presented by two Reuters reporters who have been sentenced to seven years in prison for violating Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act, defense lawyers said Tuesday. The appeal hearing is scheduled for Dec. 24.
"We hope that the High Court will finally provide justice for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo and declare them innocent," said lawyer L. Khun Ring Pan, a member of the defense team.
Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen J. Adler said the two men were arrested in a police set-up meant to interfere with their reporting on the massacre against the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority group attacked by Myanmar's state forces.
"The fact that they remain in prison for a crime they did not commit calls into question Myanmar’s commitment to democracy, freedom of expression and rule of law," Adler argued in a statement Wednesday.
The men have been imprisoned since December 2017. More than 100 Myanmar activists observed the one-year anniversary of their arrest by releasing black balloons at a rally in Yangon Wednesday.
Before their arrest, reporters Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, had been investigating the killings of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys by security forces and local Buddhists in Myanmar's Rakhine state during last year's army crackdown, which forced over 730,000 Rohingya to flee.
United Nations investigators issued a report earlier this year accusing Myanmar’s military of acting with “genocidal intent” and calling for the country’s commander-in-chief, Min Aung Hlaing, and five generals to be prosecuted under international law.
Amnesty International says among the atrocities, Myanmar military raped and abused Rohingya women and girls.
During eight months of hearings, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo testified that two policemen they had not met before handed them papers rolled up in a newspaper during a meeting at a Yangon restaurant on Dec. 12. Almost immediately afterward, they said, they were bundled into a car by plainclothes officers.
In September, a Yangon district court found the reporters guilty of violating a colonial-era law, the Official Secrets Act. The landmark case has raised concerns sparked international outcry.
"Today marks the shameful one year anniversary of Myanmar's jailing of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. Set them free now! #FreeWaLoneKyawSoeOo." @CPJAsia's Shawn W. Crispin#TIMEPOY— Committee to Protect Journalists (@pressfreedom) December 11, 2018
Background info about their case: https://t.co/yURFbtIMOp pic.twitter.com/dQHUaTrWCc
The law was created in 1923 by the British colonial government “to criminalise the sharing of almost any kind of information held by the government,” which can be used “to hide corruption and wrongdoing by saying that the evidence is an official secret,” according to Freedom of Expression Myanmar, a group of Myanmar and international human rights defenders.
One of the jailed journalists, Wa Lone, has recently published a children’s book about a young school reporter, Jay Jay the Journalist, seeking to expose the truth.