Reporters remain jailed in Myanmar

Myanmar court Will Not dismiss charges

A Myanmar judge today rejected a request to dismiss the case against Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who are on trial for having allegedly possessed secret government documents during their investigation of the Inn Din massacre in September.

"The court decided that the proposal from the defendants' lawyer to release the defendants before all the witnesses were cross-examined has been rejected", judge Ye Lwin said.

The bloody incident in Inn Din village on 2 September is the only atrocity to which the military has admitted during its violent crackdown in northern Rakhine state, which has forced some 700,000 Rohingya to flee over the border into Bangladesh since August previous year.

The massacre they investigated was later comprehensively documented by Reuters and now seven Myanmar soldiers have been sentenced over the case.

The two had worked on Reuters' coverage of the crisis in Rakhine, where security forces' response to a Muslim insurgents' attack have driven almost 700,000 Rohingya to neighbouring Bangladesh.

Security forces in Rakhine are accused of serious human rights violations against ethnic Rohingya Muslims.

The army denies the allegations and casts its campaign as a legitimate response to Rohingya militant attacks on August 25 that killed about a dozen border guard police.

Lead prosecutor Kyaw Min Aung had argued against the dismissal of the case, reiterating the prosecution's position that the documents the police say the reporters had in their possession were secret and that the court could assume they meant to harm the security of the country.

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The military says the soldiers involved in the murders have been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Wa Lone's wife Pan Ei Mon said despite her husband urging her not to expect what would have been a dramatic court decision on Wednesday to release him and his colleague from custody, she had been optimistic.

"We are deeply disappointed with the court's decision", said Stephen J. Adler, Reuters' president and editor-in-chief.

Refugees arriving over the months since then have reported killings, burnings, looting and rape by members of the Myanmar security forces and Buddhist vigilantes.

"There has been an alarming erosion in press freedom in Myanmar where media workers continue to face threats, intimidation and even jail time simply for doing their jobs".

But Wa Lone, who turned 32 on Wednesday and was brought cake by his friends, still expressed optimism.

"I believe in democracy".

Another witness said he had signed the search form recording the reporters' arrests before the items seized from them had been filled in.

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