Myanmar court denies bail to Reuters journalists held under secrecy law

Detained Reuters journalist Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are escorted by police while arriving for a court hearing in Yangon on February 1. (Reuters)
Updated 01 February 2018
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Myanmar court denies bail to Reuters journalists held under secrecy law

YANGON: A Myanmar court on Thursday denied bail to two Reuters journalists charged under a secrecy act that could see them face up to 14 years in jail, in a case that has sparked outcry over shrinking media freedom.
Myanmar nationals Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, are accused of possessing classified documents thought to relate to the violent military crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority.
The crackdown in northern Rakhine state has forced nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims over the border into Bangladesh since August, many carrying allegations of rape, mass murder and arson at the hands of Myanmar’s army.
“The pair can’t be granted bail according to the law ... and the court has decided not to give them bail,” judge Ye Lwin told the Yangon court of charges under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act.
The journalists, who have been in custody since December, say they were given the papers by two policemen who had invited them to dinner in the outskirts of Yangon.
As they left the restaurant, they say they were arrested before they even had a chance to look at the documents.
The court had discretion to grant bail if it deemed that their detention had been unlawful.
Myanmar authorities have been urged to free the journalists by media freedom campaigners as well as a cast of diplomats and international grandees including former US president Bill Clinton.
Thursday’s bail decision was crucial as pre-trial hearings are expected to drag on for several months before the court officially decides whether to take on the case or not.
The pair are now expected to remain in jail throughout that period.
On hearing the refusal of bail, Wa Lone’s wife Pan Ei Mon cried.
“I hoped to get it,” she said, crying. “I even cleaned his room last night to prepare for him getting bail.”
Reuters has refused to comment on the exact details of what its correspondents were reporting on at the time of their arrest but it is widely thought they were investigating a massacre of Rohingya in the village of Inn Din in northern Rakhine.
The military later acknowledged members of the security forces took part in the extrajudicial killing, saying it would hold those responsible to account.
UN special rapporteur to Myanmar Yanghee Lee added her voice in support of the journalists from a press conference in Seoul, calling the pair “brave” and “fearless.”
She has been banned from Myanmar by authorities who say she is working with a bias against the country.
“I remain deeply perplexed and concerned that they remain in detention despite the military having admitted responsibility for the killings at Inn Din,” she said, adding that “they should be released immediately and the charges against them must be dropped.”


Ex US senators warn of ‘constitutional crisis’ under Trump

Updated 46 min 8 sec ago
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Ex US senators warn of ‘constitutional crisis’ under Trump

  • Special counsel Robert Mueller probes whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to tilt the 2016 election in his favor, and a soon-to-be Democrat-led House starts launching related investigations
  • Trump was directly implicated in ordering payments to alleged ex-lovers — which prosecutors believe sought to influence the outcome of the election

WASHINGTON: Forty-four former US Senators from both major US parties warned Monday of threats to US democracy under President Donald Trump, and a “constitutional crisis” for America.
They said the convergence of events — as special counsel Robert Mueller probes whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to tilt the 2016 election in his favor, and a soon-to-be Democrat-led House starts launching related investigations — made for highly precarious political waters.
The 44 include Democrats such as Bill Bradley and John Kerry and Republicans such as Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Richard Lugar, and they paint the situation ominously as a constitutional crisis.
“It is our shared view that we are entering a dangerous period, and we feel an obligation to speak up about serious challenges to the rule of law, the Constitution, our governing institutions and our national security,” the ex-lawmakers wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece Monday.
“We are at an inflection point in which the foundational principles of our democracy and our national security interests are at stake, and the rule of law and the ability of our institutions to function freely and independently must be upheld,” they wrote.
And “at other critical moments in our history, when constitutional crises have threatened our foundations, it has been the Senate that has stood in defense of our democracy. Today is once again such a time,” the group stressed.
They urged current and future members of the US Senate to make sure that “partisanship or self-interest not replace national interest.” Bipartisan cooperation has plunged with Trump in power.
How lawmakers in both houses of Congress handle the crisis will be key to how the nation handles Trump’s being its first sitting president implicated in a felony.
Referred to as “Individual-1,” Trump was directly implicated in ordering payments to alleged ex-lovers — which prosecutors believe sought to influence the outcome of the election.