Police witness burned preliminary report in Reuters case


YANGON — A police witness for the prosecution in the trial of two Reuters journalists admitted Tuesday he burnt a preliminary arrest report for the case, the lawyer for the defence told reporters today.

The preliminary report is normally handwritten by the officer in charge at the scene of an arrest, in this case Lt Tin Htwe Oo, who led the team that detained the pair in Mingaladon Township in December.

According to the Code of Criminal Procedure, a later document called the First Investigation Report, is to be prepared at the station afterward.

Defence lawyer U Than Zaw Aung grilled Tin Htwe Oo during a two-hour cross-examination at Yangon’s Northern District Court on Tuesday, casting doubt on the credibility of the preliminary report presented to the bench.

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The lieutenant eventually admitted the original preliminary report had been destroyed, but would not elaborate on why.

Asked to give a detailed account of the arrest, Tin Htwe Oo read from his police diary, leading to an objection from the defence counsel.

“The date in the diary he read from was February 5, 2018,” Than Zaw Aung told reporters after proceedings concluded for the day. “It has to be questioned whether his account was written last night or this morning.”

Ko Wa Lone and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo, the two reporters at the centre of the case, appeared healthy and in good spirits arriving at the court on Tuesday morning.

As with previous hearings in the case, numerous delegations from foreign embassies in Myanmar were present at the courthouse.

Upon leaving the courthouse, both men shouted at waiting reporters that they had been “threatened into signing some documents.”

Both men are facing charges under the Official Secrets Act for alleged possession of restricted documents belonging to the military.

The defence maintains the pair were victims of entrapment after being invited to meet two police officers at a restaurant in Mingaladon. The two officers have since appeared on the witness list for the prosecution.

“Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are journalists who perform a crucial role in shedding light on issues of global interest,” a Reuters spokesman said in a statement Tuesday. “We believe that the ongoing court proceedings will demonstrate their innocence and they will be able to return to their jobs reporting on events in Myanmar.”

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo face up to 14 years in prison if convicted.

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