Myanmar: EU, UK call for presidential action after Reuters journalists' appeals rejected

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Reuters journalists lose appeal in Myanmar

A Myanmar court has rejected the appeal of two jailed Reuters journalists, leading EU states to call for intervention. The journalists had been reporting on human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.

The European Union and Britain on Friday called on Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi to intervene after an appeal from two Reuters journalists was rejected.

A Myanmar court earlier on Friday ruled against Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, who in September were both sentenced to seven years in jail on charges of breaking the country's Official Secrets Act — a legal relic of British colonial rule.

Read more: Myanmar jails journalists — 'More trials and prosecution under civilian government'

"Today's court decision to confirm the conviction of Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo to seven years' imprisonment is a missed opportunity to right a wrong," an EU spokesperson said in a statement.

"We are very worried about due process in this case," British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told BBC radio when asked about the case. "We urge Aung San Suu Kyi to look at whether that due process happened and to recognize that as someone who fought for democracy in Burma, she should be taking a personal interest in the future of these two brave journalists."

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DW News | 03.09.2018

Myanmar journalists sentenced to seven years in prison

What happened in court

  • Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo's appeals were rejected
  • High Court Judge Aung Naing said the seven-year prison term was "a suitable punishment"
  • Defense lawyer Than Zaw Aung said he would discuss the option of a Supreme Court appeal with the two reporters

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo's arrest: Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested on December 12 in Yangon for allegedly possessing "important secret papers" related to the ongoing crisis in Rakhine state, which they say they acquired from two policemen.

They argued that they had been framed by police officers who handed them official documents in a Yangon restaurant before arresting them. Both pleaded not guilty to violating the Official Secrets Act and testified that they had received harsh treatment during their initial interrogations. Several appeals for their release have been denied.

The flight of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to Bangladesh

Seeking refuge

A series of coordinated attacks by Rohingya insurgents on Myanmar security forces in the north of Myanmar's Rakhine State triggered a crackdown by Myanmar forces that has sent a stream of Rohingya villagers fleeing to Bangladesh. About 400 people have been killed in the clashes in Buddist-majority Myanmar.

The flight of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to Bangladesh

Mass evacuation

A Rohingya man passes a child though a barbed wire border fence on the border with Bangladesh. Myanmar accused the Rohingya insurgents of torching seven villages, one outpost, and two parts of Maungdaw town.

The flight of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to Bangladesh

Buddhist refugees on their way south

The crackdown by Myanmar forces also sparked a mass evacuation of thousands of Buddhist residents of the area. Tension has long been high between the Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists, leading to bloody rioting in 2012. Rakhine Buddhists, feeling unsafe after the upsurge in fighting, are moving south to the state's capital, Sittwe, where Buddhists are a majority and have greater security.

The flight of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to Bangladesh

No entry

Bangladeshi border guards block people from crossing. Thousands of Rohingyas have sought to flee the fighting to Bangladesh, with nearly 30,000 crossing over. Bangladesh, which is already host to more than 400,000 Rohingya said it will not accept any more refugees, despite an appeal by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for Dhaka to allow Rohingya to seek safety.

The flight of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to Bangladesh

Humanitarian crisis

An aid worker with an international agency in Bangladesh reports: "What we're seeing is that many Rohingya people are sick. This is because they got stuck in the border before they could enter. It's mostly women and children." The Rohingya are denied citizenship in Myanmar and classified as illegal immigrants, despite claiming roots there that go back centuries.

The flight of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to Bangladesh

Not welcome in Bangladesh

A group of Rohingya refugees takes shelter at the Kutuupalang makeshift refugee camp in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh. Bangladesh's unwillingness to host more refugees became apparent in the government's plan to relocate Rohingyas to a remote island that is mostly flooded during the monsoon season.

The flight of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to Bangladesh

Stranded in no man's land

Rohingya children make their way through water as they try to come to the Bangladesh side from no man's land. Tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees are believed to be stuck at the border to Bangladesh.

Crackdown in Rakhine state: Allegations of a series of coordinated attacks on Myanmar police posts in western Rakhine state led the military to launch the violent crackdown on the Rohingya people on August 25 last year, driving more than 700,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh, including at least 370,000 children.

Persecution of the Rohingya: The Rohingya have long been subject to persecution in Myanmar. After military rule began in the country in 1962, the situation for the Rohingya worsened and government campaigns saw thousands of Rohingya pushed into neighboring Bangladesh. A new citizenship law passed in 1982 further exacerbated the situation — 135 national ethnic groups were identified but the Rohingya were not included, rendering them stateless.

law/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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