Lawyers ask Myanmar to dismiss case vs. Reuters journalists

Reuters journalist Kyaw Soe Oo, center, is escorted by police as they leave the court, Wednesday, April 4, 2018, Yangon, Myanmar. (AP Photo/Thein Zaw)

Lawyers for two Reuters journalists detained in Myanmar have asked a court to dismiss the case, saying the evidence doesn't support the charges

YANGON, Myanmar — Lawyers for two Reuters journalists detained in Myanmar asked a court Wednesday to dismiss the case against them, saying the evidence doesn't support the charges.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo face possible charges under the Official Secrets Act, a law dating from British colonial times. If convicted, they could get up to 14 years in prison.

Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were arrested Dec. 12, with police accusing them of violating the law by acquiring "important secret papers" handed them by two policemen who worked in troubled Rakhine state. Security forces there have been accused of serious human rights violations against the persecuted ethnic Rohingya Muslims.

Around 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled into Bangladesh since August in response to brutal counterinsurgency campaign.

The court is currently holding preliminary hearings, during which the judge can dismiss the charges. The case against the reporters has drawn global attention with high-profile rights lawyer Amal Clooney announcing last week she's taking it on.

Than Zaw Aung, one of the reporters' lawyers, said Wednesday's hearing concerned the defense's motion to dismiss the case on the basis that the charges had not been proven. He said the prosecution countered that witnesses' testimony proved they had committed the crimes.

Prosecution witnesses who have appeared before the court so far have offered confusing and conflicting testimony, lending weight to the belief that the arrests were a clumsy set-up by the government, which is sensitive to any reporting that is critical of its activities in Rakhine.

The judge is expected to rule next week on the request to have the case dismissed.

Wa Lone, responding to a reporter's question of whether he believed he would soon get his freedom, said "the decision will be made next hearing and we will know for sure, then."

"I did not do anything wrong, so I hope I will be free soon," Kyaw Soe Oo added.

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