Myanmar: 'Completely baseless' case against Reuters journalists upheld
11 April, 2018, 17:53 | Author: Joshua Bennett
Myanmar's military on Tuesday sentenced seven personnel to 10 years in prison and hard labor as alleged accomplices in the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslims in troubled Rakhine state, where the country's security forces carried out a brutal crackdown against the minority group, officials said.
The two countries reached a deal in November to begin repatriation within two months, but it has not begun, with stateless Rohingya, who face restrictions on their movements in Myanmar, still arriving in Bangladesh.
The Rohingya exodus followed reported killings, burnings, looting and rape in response to Rohingya militant attacks on security forces.
The army in January made a rare admission that its soldiers had killed 10 Rohingya villagers who were captured and accused of being "terrorists" during insurgent attacks previous year in Inn Din village in northern Rakhine.
Myanmar has faced global condemnation and accusations of extrajudicial killings, ethnic cleansing and genocide as some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Rakhine to Bangladesh following a military crackdown on insurgents. They also pointed to what they said were inconsistencies in witness testimony and procedural mistakes made by the authorities during the arrest and subsequent searches.
The military admitted that the atrocity took place and Reuters later published the story while the reporters were in prison.
However, the army has repeatedly claimed the Rohingya men were "terrorists", but has not presented any evidence to back up the allegation.
The case of the two journalists has gained worldwide attention, with human rights lawyer Amal Clooney expected to join the defence team. "A further three soldiers were purged and given a 10 year prison sentence with hard labour in a criminal prison", read the post from Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
Wa Lone's wife Pan Ei Mon, who is pregnant with their first child, broke down in tears after the hearing, telling journalists, "Wa Lone told me "not to expect too much" but I'm always expecting as his wife". If found guilty, the defendants could be imprisoned for up to 14 years under the Official Secrets Act. Reuters announced last month that that prominent human rights lawyer Amal Clooney had joined the legal team.
Reuters president Stephen J. Adler said in a statement that the company is "deeply disappointed" with the court's decision. "Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were reporting on issues in Myanmar in an independent and impartial way".
"They have not violated any laws in the course of their newsgathering and were simply doing their jobs".
"We believe that there are solid grounds for the court to dismiss this matter and to release our journalists". "I want them to be released soon".
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