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Reuters journalists facing secrets charges to hear verdict next week

Detained Reuters journalist Wa Lone speaks to the media at a court in Yangon on June 18, 2018. (Photo: Reuters)

A Yangon court set 27 August as the verdict date in the case of the detained Reuters journalists, after both prosecution and defence submitted their closing statements.

Defence lawyer Khin Maung Zaw described Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, as good family men with strong personal ethics as he concluded his remarks in Insein court on Monday. The pair are charged under the colonial-era State Secrets Act, accused of obtaining top-secret documents that could threaten the country’s security.

“They are [both] young, please be lenient and think of their young children,” said Khin Maung Zaw.

Wa Lone became a father for the first time last week. Pan Ei Mon gave birth to their daughter Thet Htar Angel in Rangoon on 10 August. Kyaw Soe Oo also has a young daughter.

Their defence highlighted the weakness of the evidence against them, noting the police’s account of their arrest deferred dramatically from the accused’s.  Khin Maung Zaw said official approval for their arrest came from the President’s Office came almost immediately, a process that usually takes some days.

He spoke of their alleged mistreatment while detained by police, including sleep deprivation, being held in stress positions and assault.

The prosecution introduced new accusations that the Reuters journalists had the phone number of an Arakan Army member, “secret documents about police movements” and “security details of Pope Francis’ visit”. In response the defence lawyer stated that there is no way to confirm the reporters phones have not received documents without their knowledge.

If convicted the pair face up to 14 years in prison.

Additional reporting by Kimberley Phillips and Libby Hogan.