>> A judge in Myanmar found two Reuters journalists guilty of collecting state secrets on Monday. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have been sentence to seven years in prison. It's a case that's widely seen as a test of progress towards democracy in Myanmar. The judge ruled the two reporters breached the Official Secrets Act, a colonial era law, when they handled documents related to security forces.
At the time of their the two had been working on an investigation into the killings of ten Rohingya by troops and Buddhist civilians in Rakhine State. In testimony the reporters had said two policemen handed them papers at a restaurant in December, moments before other officers arrested them. One police witness testified it was a set up to entrap the journalists, to block or punish them for the reporting to the massacre.
The verdict had been postponed for a week, because the judge was sick. Monday's decision means that after ten months behind bars they will remain in jail, kept from their families. Kyaw Soe Oo has a three-year-old daughter, and Wa Lone's wife gave birth to their first child last month.
Reuters Asia editor Kevin Krolicki called the verdict a dark moment and deeply disappointing result.>> Anyone who's followed this trial will understand that by any impartial standard, by any fair standard, this trial established the innocence of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo.>> A Myanmar government spokesman did not respond to requests for comment on Monday's verdict.
He had mostly declined to comment throughout the proceedings, saying Myanmar's courts were independent and the case would be conducted according to law. The verdict came as Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and her government faced pressure over a crackdown on Rohingya Muslims sparked by militant attacks last August.
UN agencies say 700,000 Rohingya have fled violence crossing the border to Bangladesh. Myanmar denies allegations against its security forces of killings, rapes, and arson. Officials say they led a legitimate counterinsurgency operation against Muslim militants. However, after arresting the reporters, the military acknowledged the massacre the reporters had been investigating.
Last week, a U.N. fact finding mission said Myanmar's military carried out mass killings and gang rape of Muslim Rohingya with genocidal intent. Its report called for top generals to be prosecuted. Myanmar has rejected those findings. Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court is weighing up whether it has jurisdiction over events in Rakhine State