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Detained Reuters journalists denied bail

Detained Reuters journalist Wa Lone is escorted by police during a break at a court hearing in Yangon on 1 February 2018 (PHOTO: REUTERS)

A judge in Yangon today refused bail to two detained Reuters journalists who are facing up to 14 years in prison if convicted under Burma’s Official Secrets Act.

Judge Ye Lwin told reporters Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, that they were ineligible for bail under the terms of the colonial-era law.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo stand accused of being in possession of sensitive government documents, apparently linked to the Rohingya insurgency in Burma’s northwest, a region the pair helped cover for the London-based Reuters news agency.

At today’s hearing, prosecution witness Police Major Min Thant testified that the documents he seized from the journalists when he arrested them on 12 December had already been published by several media outlets.

In response, the defendants’ lawyer, Than Zaw Aung, said that the fact that the information in the documents was already public knowledge was proof enough that the pair were not in danger of divulging sensitive material.

“He [Police Major Min Thant] is admitting that the public already knows the information mentioned in those documents,” said Than Zaw Aung.

Although Min Thant told the court that he was one of the arresting officers, defendant Wa Lone said today that neither he nor Kyaw Soe Oo had ever seen him.

“The police officers were not wearing uniforms when they arrested us,” he said. “However, he [Police Major Min Thant] testified that they were in uniform.”

The next hearing was scheduled for 6 February.

Speaking to DVB after the court hearing today, Wa Lone’s wife said she had sent a letter appealing to State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi to intervene on behalf of the two incarcerated journalists.

“But I have yet to receive a response,” said Pan Ei.