By SU MYAT MON | FRONTIER
YANGON – A judge has dismissed a motion to drop charges against detained Reuters journalists Ko Wa Lone and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo, saying that the court needs to hear more evidence before he can make a decision on whether to proceed with the trial.
Judge U Ye Lwin said today another eight prosecution witnesses would need to be called, for 25 in total. The next hearing is scheduled for April 20.
Defence lawyer U Than Zaw Aung told journalists after the decision that he believed the pre-trial hearings would conclude within the next month.
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested in December for allegedly possessing classified documents. They were working on a story, which Reuters published in February, documenting the extrajudicial killing of 10 Rohingya men in Rakhine State’s Inn Din village last year. They face up to 14 years in prison if found guilty.
Following their arrest the military admitted the massacre had taken place, contradicting its earlier claims that none of its soldiers had been involved in rights abuses in northern Rakhine State. Yesterday, the head of Myanmar’s armed forces said seven soldiers responsible for the massacre had been sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment with hard labour.
On leaving court in Yangon today, Wa Lone said it was unfair that the killers were given a shorter sentence than those who reported on their crimes are facing. “They face jail for 10 years but we may be imprisoned for 14,” he said. Both Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo continue to protest their innocence.
“I want to ask the government: Where is the truth and justice and where is the freedom and democracy?” Wa Lone shouted as he was escorted into a police van.