BY SU MYAT MON | FRONTIER
YANGON — Yangon’s Insein Township court is nearing a decision on whether two detained Reuters journalists will be charged under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum term of 14 years’ imprisonment.
The court heard yesterday that a decision on whether to proceed to trial or dismiss the case would be made on July 2, after more than twenty pre-trial hearings over a period of almost six months.
Judge U Ye Lwin yesterday dismissed the last of 25 witnesses listed for the prosecution, Police Corporal Khin Maung Lin. The prosecution said yesterday that he was missing, having previously said he would testify.
Ko Wa Lone and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested in Yangon shortly after receiving documents from two police officers. They had been investigating the massacre of 10 Muslim men in Inn Din village, in Rakhine State’s Maungdaw Township, in which the Tatmadaw has since admitted its involvement.
Wa Lone reiterated yesterday that he and Kyaw Soe Oo were detained for doing their work.
“As a journalist I am really sad about it, and about having been detained for six months. This means we cannot continue with our reporting. Perhaps this is their intention,” he said to reporters outside the courthouse.
“But I strongly believe this coming July 2 will bring good luck to us.”
He said in the two weeks after their arrest, he and Kyaw Soe Oo were detained at Aung Thabyay, an interrogation facility in Mingalardon Township.
Police Captain Myint Lwin, who was in charge of Taukkyan Township police station at the time of the arrests, denied this last week, saying the reporters were held in custody at the station.
Defence lawyer U Khin Maung Win said yesterday that police denied transferring the journalists to the interrogation facility because they did not want to admit to applying undue pressure.
“We were detained for two weeks at Aung Thabyay and we were questioned a lot about the Rakhine issue,” said Wa Lone.
He continued, “I refute the view of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi that we were not arrested for the Rakhine issue. We were arrested because of this and I want her [as our national leader] to be fair about it.”
Earlier this month Aung San Suu Kyi told Japan’s NHK World that the reporters were arrested for violating the Official Secrets Act. She said they “were not arrested for covering the Rakhine issue” and that court proceedings were “in accordance with due process”.
Defense laywer U Than Zaw Aung said yesterday that the prosecution has been unable to substantiate its central claim that the journalists were in possession of secret documents.
He said neither the prosecution nor its witnesses have adequately explained to the court how it believes the reporters obtained these papers, or from whom.
The documents were allegedly found on the reporters’ mobile phones, he said, but there has been no attempt to prosecute those who sent them. “There is nothing like that,” he said.