A Myanmar judge dismissed an appeal Friday by two Reuters journalists jailed for seven years while investigating atrocities committed against the Rohingya, dashing slim hopes that the pair could be freed early.
Wa Lone (32), and Kyaw Soe Oo (28), had worked on one of the most detailed accounts of official abuses, an investigation of the killing of 10 Rohingya villagers in Inn Din village, for which seven soldiers were eventually sentenced to up to 10 years in prison with hard labor.
United Nations investigators have called for top Myanmar generals to be investigated for genocide, and criticised the country's de facto leader Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi for failing to stop the attacks.
The appeal against the verdict, which was filed in November, argued that "compelling evidence" of the arrest being a set-up by the police, as well as violations in due process and key holes in the prosecution's case, had been ignored. He said they meant to harm national security and the national interest.
When arrested the two were investigating a mass execution of Rohingyas, hundreds of thousands of whom have been forced to flee destruction and persecution in the northern Rakhine province of Myanmar.
Both men have been in prison for more than a year. In comments made the week after their conviction, she said they had been sentenced for handling official secrets and "were not jailed because they were journalists".
The reporters' wives cried after the decision which condemns the pair to continue their stay at Yangon's notorious Insein prison, where they have been held for the last 13 months. "The continued rise of China has allowed a certain amount of political interference to be run on behalf of countries like Myanmar such that decisions like these can be defended internationally in a way that was not really possible 10 years ago, much less 20 or 30 years ago".
They maintain their innocence, saying the authorities set them up. Myanmar authorities must release the two journalists immediately and unconditionally.
"We are very disappointed about today's judgment", said the journalists' defence lawyer Than Zaw Aung, adding that the decision would have a "negative impact" on the country and its media.
However, in a further blow to freedom of expression in Myanmar, on Friday afternoon a judge at the high court in Yangon rejected the appeal and upheld their guilty verdict.
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