Myanmar: Jailed Reuters journalists wait final ruling

YANGON, Myanmar (AA): Myanmar’s highest court will make a rule on Tuesday on appeal by two jailed Reuters journalists imprisoned for reporting on extrajudicial killing of Rohingya muslims in western Rakhine state.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were sentenced to seven years last September under a colonial-era law for allegedly breaching the Official Secrets Act for investigating the killing of 10 Rohingya men.

In the final stage of appeal procedures, defense lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court against the conviction last month. The court had the first hearing on the appeal in country’s political capital Nay Pyi Taw on 26, March.

One of the defense lawyers, Than Zaw Aung, told Anadolu Agency that the final ruling would be made by the Supreme Court on April 23.

“As it’s the last stage [of appeal procedures], we are hoping the best. We are hoping the Supreme Court would make a fair review and right decision,” he said by phone on Sunday.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were among the Reuters staff who recently won the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting for an investigative report that revealed the massacre of 10 Rohingya men in the northern part of Rakhine in September 2017.

Wa Lone’s wife Pan Ei Mon said she is hoping the award would help her husband being released from prison.

“What we want is simple. It’s a family reunion. As he did nothing wrong in exposing the rights violations, he deserves it,” she told Anadolu Agency over the phone on Sunday.

“So we are hoping they will be released,” she added.

Rakhine state is the epicenter of a 2017 military crackdown against the Rohingya Muslims that forced some 760,000 to flee the country sparking worldwide criticism.

Persecuted people

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world’s most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the report, titled “Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience”.

Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.

The UN has also documented mass gang rapes, killings – including of infants and young children – and brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces.

In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity and genocidal intent.