By YE MON | FRONTIER
YANGON — Lawyers acting on behalf of two Reuters reporters who were sentenced on September 3 to seven years each in prison under the Official Secrets Act have filed an appeal to Yangon Region High Court, asking for the verdict to be overturned and the journalists acquitted.
The appeal states that Yangon Northern District Court erred on multiple grounds when it convicted Ko Wa Lone, 32, and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, of breaking the colonial-era law. Speaking to Frontier, lawyer U Than Zaw Aung said the regional court had accepted the appeal.
“The regional court will inform the office of the Attorney General and then we will have to present our arguments, which will take around one month. We hope for the best outcome,” he said.
In a letter dated November 2, Than Zaw Aung and U L Khun Ring Pan asked the Yangon Regional Court to reverse the September 3 verdict. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were convicted despite incontrovertible evidence of a police set-up and the prosecution’s failure to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt, the appeal said.
At the time of their arrest last December 12, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were investigating an army-led massacre of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys in Inn Din village of northern Rakhine State, to which the military has since admitted.
The journalists’ eight-month trial, in which even a police witness for the prosecution testified that the pair had been set up by a senior police commander – testimony the judge chose to ignore – prompted global outrage and concerns about deteriorating press freedom in Myanmar.
Reuters’ editor-in-chief Mr Stephen J Adler said in a statement Monday that the district court’s ruling was wrong and that the prosecution had failed to prove any of the key elements of the crime.
“Now is the time for Myanmar to uphold its stated dedication to rule of law, freedom of the press, and democracy by ordering the release of our colleagues, whether on appeal or by granting the families’ request for a pardon,” he said.
Ma Pan Ei Mon, the wife of Wa Lone, told Frontier she has faith that the appeal will secure her husband’s release. She said she hopes Wa Lone can return home to live with her and their baby daughter Thet Htar Angel, who was born in August while her father was in custody. He met his daughter for the first time last week at Insein Prison, according to members of the family.
“Wa Lone also said that he wants to live with his daughter. He wants to come home. I hope the appeal will have a positive result,” Pan Ei Mon said.
Myanmar journalists are separately preparing a petition addressed to President U Win Myint that will call for the journalists’ release. Ko Htet Khaung Linn, a journalist for Myanmar Now and one of the campaign’s leaders, said the group was still collecting signatures. “The campaign hasn’t finished yet,” he said.