Published: Fri, September 14, 2018
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Myanmar's Suu Kyi defends court decision to jail Reuters journalists

Myanmar's Suu Kyi defends court decision to jail Reuters journalists

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini is urging Myanmar's authorities to free two journalists jailed on charges of possessing state secrets in connection with their reporting about massacres against Rohingya Muslims.

Suu Kyi on Thursday drew shark rebukes from USA officials after she insisted the jailing of the two journalists did not violate freedom of speech.

The country's de facto leader acknowledged that the brutal crackdown on the Muslim minority - which the United Nations has cast as "genocide" - could have been "handled better", but insisted the two reporters had been treated fairly.

"She fails to understand that real "rule of law" means respect for evidence presented in court, actions brought based on clearly defined and proportionate laws, and independence of the judiciary from influence by the government or security forces", he said in a statement.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, last week were each imprisoned for seven years for breaching the act while reporting on atrocities committed during the military crackdown in Rakhine State.

Last year, Suu Kyi's office said her reason for not attending the 2017 General Assembly session was because she had to handle domestic security issues after the attacks that triggered the army crackdown. "We can't choose who should be protected by rule of law". "The case was held in open court".

"First in denial about the abuse the Burmese military placed on the Rohingya, now justifying the imprisonment of the two Reuters reporters who reported on the ethnic cleansing", Haley tweeted in response to a post Suu Kyi.

Sean Bain, of the International Commission of Jurists, said: "Open courts are created to shed light on the justice process".

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"If we believe in the rule of law, they have every right to appeal the judgment and to point out why the judgement was wrong".

Army-led "clearance operations" that started in August a year ago drove 700,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh, carrying with them widespread accounts of atrocities - rape, murder and arson - by Burmese police and troops.

Last month, United Nations investigators said Myanmar's military carried out mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya with "genocidal intent", and that the commander-in-chief and five generals should be prosecuted for the gravest crimes under global law.

The International Criminal Court said it has jurisdiction to open an investigation, even though Myanmar is not a member of the tribunal.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Hanoi today Ms Suu Kyi said the convictions of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who had been investigating the killings of ten Rohingya men and boys, had "nothing to do with freedom of expression at all".

Bangladesh has no plans to take in hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees permanently, its foreign secretary said on Wednesday, adding that they "belong" to Myanmar from where they fled.

In the camps in Bangladesh, which constitute the world's largest single refugee settlement, some Rohingya have expressed reluctance to return to the site of so much slaughter by the Myanmar military and Buddhist mobs.

Reuters has reported that the journalists were arrested as part of a sting operation by police in Myanmar.

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