Asia

Myanmar Reuters journalists' verdict delayed by judge's health

Kyaw Soe Oo (C) is escorted by police out of a court in Yangon on August 27, 2018 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Reuters journalist Kyaw Soe Oo leaves the court after it postponed ruling

A court in Myanmar has delayed its ruling on two Reuters journalists accused of violating a state secrets act while investigating violence against Rohingyas.

An official said the verdict would now be given on 3 September, owing to the judge's poor health.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested last year while carrying official documents given to them by police.

The men, who deny all charges, face up to 14 years in jail if found guilty.

Both men have been in jail since December.

"Whatever they decide for us, we will not be afraid," Wa Lone said while leaving the courthouse, AFP reported.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Friends of the journalists turned out on Monday in support of both men

He has previously said their work followed all media ethics and that they "tried to tell the truth based on the real situation".

The verdict comes a year after the long-running crisis in Rakhine state came to a head when a previously unknown Rohingya militant group staged deadly attacks on police posts.

The military responded with a large-scale deadly operation against the Rohingya, which the UN has said was intended to drive them out of the country for good.

Media access to Rakhine is strictly controlled by the government so it is difficult to get reliable news from the region.

What happened to the journalists?

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, had been collecting evidence about the execution of 10 men in the village of Inn Din in northern Rakhine on 2 September.

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Media captionRohingya girls in danger: The stories of three young women

According to Reuters, a group of Rohingya men seeking safety on a beach were singled out and killed - at least were two hacked to death by Buddhist villagers with the rest shot by the army.

On 12 December, the journalists were invited to dinner with two police officers who handed them documents about the massacre.

They were arrested when they left the restaurant.

They were charged with "possessing important and secret government documents related to Rakhine state and security forces". Police said the information had been "illegally acquired with the intention to share it with foreign media".

What is their defence?

Their lawyers say they were set up by police, because officials wanted them to be punished for exposing the massacre.

"We are not wrong and the things alleged by the prosecution are baseless," Wa Lone said in court last week.

One police officer has testified for the defence, saying he was ordered to plant the documents on them.

What does Myanmar's government say?

The government in Myanmar (also called Burma) defends the military operation in Rakhine.

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Media captionThe BBC saw the remains of burned villages on a tightly controlled government trip to Rakhine state

On the incident at Inn Din, authorities published a full statement on the findings of their investigation into the killings. It said that action would be taken against villagers who took part and security personnel who contravened rules of engagement.

On the journalists, the government has always said they were detained only in relation to a breach of the Official Secrets Act.

A spokesman for Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has previously said the men will be afforded the protection of the law.

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