Published: Wed, April 11, 2018
Medicine | By Earnest Bishop

Judge denies motion to have Reuters journalists' case dismissed

Judge denies motion to have Reuters journalists' case dismissed

Seven Myanmar soldiers have been sentenced to "10 years in prison with hard labour in a remote area" for participating in the massacre, the army said on Tuesday.

Charred debris of houses and vegetation are seen in the abandoned village of minority Rohingya Muslims in Inn Din are seen in March.

The murders were part of a larger army crackdown on the Rohingya, beset by allegations of murder, rape, arson and looting, unleashed in response to Rohingya militant attacks on security forces in late August.

The statement said that an investigative group had questioned 21 military personnel, three police officers, 13 security forces, six civil servants and six Inn Din villagers and results found that the soldiers violated the law by killing the villagers.

The Myanmar government has acknowledged the murders, but it has repeatedly denied global accusations of ethnic cleansing and genocide against the Rohingya. The reporters were arrested for allegedly collecting classified documents from their sources in the police.

The military admitted that the atrocity took place and Reuters later published the story while the reporters were in prison.

The army has claimed the Rohingya men were terrorists, but has not presented any evidence to back up the claim. If convicted under the Official Secrets Act, they may face up to 14 years in prison. "The men who carried out the killings were just sentenced and they only got 10 years".

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"Everybody knows it's unfair", said Wa Lone's wife, Pan Ei Mon.

One of his lawyers Than Zaw Aung also compared the cases.

"The decision to press forward with this case sends a clear message to journalists operating in the country that certain topics remain off-limits, with dire consequences for those who dare address them, however peacefully". Last month Reuters announced that prominent rights attorney Amal Clooney had joined the legal team.

Bangladesh wants the refugees to go home as quickly as possible and officials said this week they hoped the minister's visit would speed up repatriation.

Win Myat Aye, Myanmar's minister for social welfare, relief and resettlement, will speak with some of the roughly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims the United Nations and aid groups say fled a military crackdown in their Buddhist-majority country since last August.

Reuters president, Stephen J Adler, said in a statement that the company was deeply disappointed with the court's decision. "We will continue to do all we can to secure their release".

Family members of the reporters were in tears after the ruling, but Wa Lone, who turned 32 on Wednesday and was brought cake by his friends, still expressed optimism.

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