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Myanmar Court Hears Appeal Case Of Reuters Journalists

The two journalists were arrested in December 2017.

A Myanmar court heard arguments on December 24 in the appeal of two Reuters reporters sentenced to seven years in prison on charges of possessing classified material on security operations.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were arrested in December 2017 and in September sentenced to seven-year prison terms for allegedly possessing state secrets in a case that sparked an outcry from diplomats and human-rights advocates.

Lawyers for the reporters filed an appeal against the conviction last month, citing evidence of a police set-up and lack of proof of a crime.

The defense lawyers and the prosecution presented arguments for more than an hour on December 24 before the hearing was adjourned. The court did not give a date for a decision.

The journalists had reported on a counterinsurgency campaign by Myanmar’s army that led some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, has said the men were convicted because they broke the law and not because of their journalistic work.

Reuters has disputed the charges, and rights group Human Rights Watch, Western governments, the United Nations, and international journalist groups have condemned the government's action and called for the journalists' release.

The journalists claimed they were set up after investigating the massacre of 10 Rohingya Muslims during a military crackdown.

Reuters Editor in Chief Stephen J. Adler said in a statement that “we are looking forward to demonstrating [why the court] should reverse the convictions of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo due to the egregious errors committed by the trial court.”

Mainly Buddhist Myanmar has been the target of international criticism for its treatment of its Muslim Rohingya minority, especially in Rakhine state.

The authorities say their actions are directed against violent militants and not against civilians.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP