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Jailed Reuters reporters' lawyers ask court to dismiss case

Lawyers for two Reuters reporters jailed in Myanmar asked a court to throw out the case, saying there was insufficient evidence to support charges against them.

A court in Yangon has been holding preliminary hearings since January to decide whether Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo (photo with his daughter), 28, will be charged with possessing secret government papers. They face a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

Defence lawyer Khin Maung Zaw filed a motion to dismiss the case. The district court in northern Yangon agreed to hear arguments from prosecutors and defence lawyers on the motion on 4 April.

“Of all the prosecution witnesses that have testified and been cross-examined, no proof” of legally sufficient evidence could be made against the defendants, Khin Maung Zaw told reporters after the hearing.

“It’s suitable for the defence lawyers to ask for the release at this stage,” he said, adding that there had been discrepancies in the testimony of some witnesses. He declined to elaborate.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have been in custody since their arrest on 12 December. They had been working on a Reuters investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men in a village in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state during a military crackdown in August, which has sent nearly 700,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh.

During a break in proceedings, Wa Lone made an appeal to Myanmar’s new president Win Myint, a close ally of the leader of the civilian government Aung San Suu Kyi, who was elected by parliament on Wednesday.

“Journalists who are in the Insein prison at the moment would like to say to the newly elected president that we are now in Insein prison because we covered news, we are facing court because we found out the unjust things,” he told reporters. “I would like to ask the new president to bring about media freedom for the press.” ■