Judge tells jailed Reuters journalists that a decision will be made on 11 April as to whether their case will go to trial
Two Reuters journalists who were arrested in December for investigating the brutal murder of 10 Rohingya Muslim men in Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine State will find out on 11 April whether their case will go to trial, the judge overseeing their pre-trial hearing said on Wednesday morning.
The hearing marked the thirteenth time that Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, had been brought before court.
The two reporters stand accused of possessing secret government papers and are being held under Myanmar’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years.
The pair claim that two police officers who they had never met before handed them the papers at a Yangon restaurant and, almost immediately afterwards, took them into custody and accused them of illegally possessing confidential government documents.
Their case has met with widespread disapproval from the international community, which has pointed to the manner of their arrest as evidence of the politically-motivated nature of the charges levelled against them.
In a statement released by her office last Thursday, renowned human rights lawyer Amal Clooney announced that she had joined the legal team representing the two jailed journalists. After reviewing the case file, she said that it was “clear beyond doubt that the two journalists are innocent and should be released immediately”.
During Wednesday’s hearing, the reporters’ defence lawyers asked the judge to dismiss the case on the basis that there existed insufficient evidence to support charges of obtaining secret government papers.
To support their argument, the defence lawyers pointed to inconsistencies in witness testimonies and procedural mistakes made by the authorities during the arrest and subsequent searches.
During previous hearings, one police officer said he had, without reason, set fire to the notes he made during his meetings with the journalists, while one civilian witness was seen to have the location where police say the arrests were made – a key point of contention during the hearings – written on his hand.
“We are being bullied for what we did as journalists,” Wa Lone told reporters outside the courthouse on Wednesday. “We never tried to betray our country.”