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Reuters reporters to face Myanmar trial for 'breaking' secrecy law

AFP  |  Yangon 

Two reporters accused of breaking Myanmar's during their reporting of the must face trial, a ruled today, on a charge that carries up to 14 years in jail.

nationals Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were both "charged under the state secrets act", told the court, setting a first court date for July 16.

The pair have been held in custody for nearly seven months for pre-trial hearings. They were arrested in December and accused of possession of leaked sensitive material linked to security operations in crisis-hit

says the pair are innocent and were simply doing their job by reporting on a massacre of Rohingya Muslims and has urged the to dismiss the case.

But Judge decided the prosecution had shown enough proof that they men were "collecting evidence" from state officials to proceed the case to trial.

The legal action against them has been lambasted by rights groups and foreign observers as an assault on and an effort to stifle reporting on the

During pre-trial hearings the prosecution argued the reporters tried to access "secret papers" and therefore deserved punishment under the British

The reporters say they were entrapped by police -- a version of events seemingly backed up in court by a whistleblowing cop who testified that officers were ordered to set up the reporters.

The pair had been investigating a massacre of ten Rohingya Muslims at village in during last year's military-led crackdown on Rohingya militants.

Before published its report on the massacre, authorities admitted 10 Rohingya men had been arrested and killed illegally at the village, later prosecuting several members of the security forces.

But has been at pains to say was an isolated incident and not part of a wider campaign of ethnic cleansing directed against the Muslim Rohingya, as the UN and US have alleged.

Wa Lone, who has issued a defiant "thumbs up" to waiting journalists at each court appearance, vowed to fight the case.

"We have the right to a defence. The court did not decide we are guilty," he said.

In court, denied any wrongdoing saying "I worked as a according to the ethics." Army operations in August 2017 forced more than 700,000 Rohingya, who are denied citizenship in Myanmar, to flee to

They took with them harrowing accounts of murder, rape and arson of their villages by Myanmar security forces and mobs of ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.

In March Amal Clooney, the wife of George, joined the Reuters legal team to add weight and profile to their defence.

But the company's efforts were not enough to persuade the judge to dismiss the case.

"We are deeply disappointed that the court declined to end this protracted and baseless proceeding," Reuters said in a statement.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, July 09 2018. 12:30 IST