Myanmar court jails Reuters reporters for seven years in landmark secrets case

Reuters journalists in Myanmar sentenced to 7 years in jail

Prosecutors accused the men of obtaining secret state documents, in breach of the Official Secrets Act. "The time already served by the defendants from December 12 will be taken into consideration".

The two journalists had been reporting a year ago on the brutal crackdown by security forces on the Rohingya in Myanmar's Rakhine state.

"Today is a sad day for Myanmar, Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, and press freedom anywhere", said Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen Adler.

On Saturday, more than 100 journalists and activists marched through Yangon in support of the reporters, whose trial echoes the treatment of government critics during the long years of military rule in Myanmar.

In a statement, the U.S. Embassy in Yangon said "the clear flaws in this case raise serious concerns about rule of law and judicial independence in Myanmar, and the reporters' conviction is a major setback to the Government of Myanmar's stated goal of expanding democratic freedoms".

They have maintained their innocence, saying they were set up by police.

"We continue to call for their release".

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were found guilty Monday of violating the colonial-era Official Secrets Act while reporting on government abuses against the country's Rohingya Muslims.

"The United Nations has consistently called for the release of the Reuters journalists and urged the authorities to respect their right to pursue freedom of expression and information", he said.

"I have no fear", Wa Lone said after the verdict.

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Stephen J Adler, Reuters' editor-in-chief, called the ruling a "major step backward in Myanmar's transition to democracy, can not be squared with the rule of law or freedom of speech, and must be corrected by the Myanmar government as a matter of urgency".

The journalists have been detained in Insein Prison since being arrested in December 2017 in what witness accounts indicate was a police setup.

The army said seven soldiers have since been sentenced to 10 years in prison with hard labour for their role in the killings.

"We will be in court tomorrow (Monday) to hear the final decision on the journalists' case", he said.

"As our Ambassador to Burma, who attended the hearing, has said, we are extremely disappointed with this verdict and sentencing", British Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman said.

The case has sparked an outcry among the global community as an attempt to muzzle reporting on last year's crackdown by Myanmar's security forces on the Muslim Rohingya minority in Rakhine state.

During their investigation, they were offered documents by two police officers, but were arrested immediately afterwards for the possession of those documents.

The verdict comes a year after the crisis in Rakhine state came to a head when a Rohingya militant group attacked several police posts.

UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar Knut Ostby, said he was disappointed. They contended they were framed by police after exposing extrajudicial killings of Rohingya Muslims by the military in Rakhine state. On August 27, 2018, the United Nations-mandated Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar issued a report on the abuses calling for top military generals to be investigated and prosecuted for genocide and crimes against humanity.

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