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Reuters journalists jailed under Official Secrets Act given permission to appeal guilty verdict in Myanmar court

Two Reuters reporters imprisoned in Myanmar have been given permission to appeal against a court’s verdict that they were guilty of breaching the country’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were jailed for seven years in September after being found in possession of official documents.

The reporters, who were investigating violence against Rohingya Muslims at the time of their arrest in December last year, have always denied the charges and contend they were framed by police.

Myanmar’s High Court has now allowed an appeal against the conviction to proceed, the defence lawyers for Lone and Soe Oo told Reuters.

The appeal was lodged earlier this month and cites evidence of a police set-up and lack of proof of a crime.

Defence lawyer L. Khun Ring Pan confirmed the case had been accepted, telling Reuters: “We hope that the High Court will finally provide justice for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo and declare them innocent.”

An appeal judge will ask prosecution and defence lawyers for written and oral arguments before making a decision.

Speaking after the appeal was given permission to proceed, Reuters president and editor-in-chief Stephen Adler told CNN that the trial had been a “complete sham” and continued to call for the pair to be pardoned.

“What we really want to happen is for there to be a pardon which is really in the hands of Aung San Suu Kyi because a pardon can happen immediately and we just want to get these wonderful journalists out,” he said.

“They’ve been in prison for almost a year. They’re entirely innocent. Every single observer of that trial recognised that it was a complete sham and a total setup.

“These were people who were just reporting, just doing their jobs, and we just want to see them out.”

Suu Kyi has faced calls to pardon the reporters from the international community, including United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres who said it was “not acceptable” they had been jailed for doing their job.

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and US Vice President Mike Pence have also raised the case.

In her only public statement on the subject, Suu Kyi said in September: “They were not jailed because they were journalists, they were jailed because… the court has decided that they have broken the Official Secrets Act.”

Picture: Reuters/Ann Wang

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