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Myanmar court postpones verdict for Reuters journalists
[YANGON] A Myanmar court postponed ruling Monday on whether two Reuters journalists violated a state secrets law while reporting on the Rohingya crisis, with a new date set for next week.
"The verdict will be announced on September 3," said district judge Khin Maung Maung in a swift hearing at a courthouse in Yangon, adding that the presiding judge was sick.
The decision delays the long-anticipated ruling for Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, who have been in Myanmar's Insein prison for some eight months.
They were arrested in December after being invited to a dinner with police in Yangon and pounced on as they left the restaurant, accused of possessing classified material.
Authorities charged them with violating a colonial-era state secrets act, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years.
But the claims were undercut by a police witness who said his superior had ordered a set-up and by arguments that the allegedly secret documents had been published in state media.
The case has sparked fears of eroding press freedoms under civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Reuters has robustly denied the charges and the newswire launched a global advocacy campaign that included diplomats, celebrities and the legal assistance of prominent rights lawyer Amal Clooney.
"Whatever they decide for us, we will not be afraid," Wa Lone told reporters as he left the courthouse and was led back into a police van.
Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone were probing the September 2017 massacre of 10 Rohingya men and boys in Myanmar's Rakhine state a week after the military launched a sweeping crackdown on members of the stateless Muslim minority.
The United Nations and Washington have called the campaign "ethnic cleansing", after some 700,000 Rohingya fled Rakhine for Bangladesh, bringing with them testimonies of rape, arson and killings in the northern part of the state.
Myanmar rejects the charges but has admitted the killings investigated by Reuters took place.